THE BASICS: Mary Shelley’s iconic novel comes alive at the Road Less Traveled Theater, in a new adaptation by David Oliver. Oliver himself directs the cast of eight. FRANKENSTEIN runs weekends through February 12th. It’s about 100 minutes long; there is no intermission .
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Fevered scientist creates humanoid monster, and is then sorry. Monster, maligned, misunderstood and sorry that he has been created, does bad things. Many die.
THE PLAY, THE PLAYERS AND THE PRODUCTION: Oliver’s adaptation of the Shelley novel is semi-faithful, adhering to the basics of the story. Some major characters have been written in and out, some key scenes repealed and replaced (sorry, folks, I couldn’t resist!). There’s been a time update, too, to 1900. This was done, almost certainly, to hammer home the importance of the industrial revolution to the tale. Some of the other referenced changes are curious, and do not make make a lot of sense, at least to this viewer.
As in the Shelley original, Dr. F is kind of weak and whiny, the Monster more sinned against than sinning. Oliver puts a lot of emphasis on the intellectual underpinnings, hoping to get us thinking about the Big Issues on our way home. Unfortunately, his script lacks verve, suspense. The horror is so muted as to be practically nonexistent. Moreover, there isn’t a drop of humor in it. As my wife put it: “everyone is taking themselves so seriously.” Steve Copps’ big grin at the curtain call was the evening’s one feel good moment!
Kudos to Mr Copps, by the way. His carefully wrought, hugely evolving Creature is one fine piece of acting. I’d be very surprised if he isn’t nominated for an Artie! Joseph Barranca’s Doctor is much less successful—weak on initial zeal, and also losing points in the projection and elocution departments. I liked John Profeta as the Oliver-invented Komarovski, a backwoods revolutionary who gives the befuddled Creature a crash course on reading, writing, and being human. The rest of the cast is capable, if not particularly special.
Finally, a shout-out to Katie Menke, who has done wonderful things here with sound effects! Couldn’t some really creepy music have been woven in? John Rickus has done a good job lighting Dyan Burlingame’s spare but effective sets.
IN SUM: A worthy effort, but, in the last analysis, a less-than-compelling piece of theater. Too cerebral, I’m afraid, and not visceral at all. Caveat emptor!
Photos courtesy of Gina Gandolfo-Lopez
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!