REVIEW: Frankenstein

Falcon Theatre has a long history with Halloween; they produce plays in the horror genre more frequently than any other theatre company in the area.  So, it’s no surprise that they open their 2017-2018 season with  FRANKENSTEIN by Nick Dear.  What might be surprising, though, is the very cerebral, thought-provoking version of this classic monster tale they’re telling.

While based on the famous Mary Shelley novel, this play views the story through the eyes of the creature.  We see him born, beaten, bullied, and eventually taken in by a kind old blind man who teaches him how to read and write – but also schools him in divinity and philosophy.  This “monster” becomes quite refined.  Eventually he seeks out his creator, wanting to know more about his origin and to understand why he was abandoned by the scientist who made him.  Within this framework, there is some interesting exploration of love, responsibility, and human nature.  It’s a solid script and well-told story.

Director Paul Morris has assembled a fine cast, with some breakout performances by the principal actors, Luka Ashley Carter (“Victor Frankenstein”) and Olaf Eide (“The Creature”).  In fact, the acting between these two – particularly at the end of Act One – is perhaps the finest two-handed scene work I’ve seen in some time.  Also very good is Don Volpenhein as “DeLacey,” the kind old man who shows kindness to what he first thinks is a hungry stranger. Victoria Hawley is very good as “Elizabeth,” the wife-to-be of Dr. Frankenstein and 8th grader, Benny Mitchell holds his own as the younger brother of Victor, “William.”  I also very much enjoyed the way Lisa Dirkes, in two small roles, made the most of her stage time.  She’s a terrific character actress; I hope we continue to see more of her.

FRANKENSTEIN is definitely the most tech-heavy show Falcon Theatre has produced since I’ve been attending.  Using three projectors, with graphics and words (designed by Kevin Kunz)  projected on Jared D. Doren’s functional, simple, and elegant set in order to move us from time and place.  These were very helpful to keep the audience engaged and able to follow the multiple location changes and time-jumps forward.  Doren also designed, the lights, using color and special effects to set the mood well.  The sound design by Chris Strobel and Aaron Zlatkin is exquisite, with luscious soundscapes and cinematic accentuation.  Hannah Farrell’s costume design gives the gothic vibe normally associated with this story, while remaining authentic to the characterizations of each actor.  Finally, the makeup and prosthetics (designed by Amber Johnson and applied by Alex Kelly) makes the creature frightening, but maintains the humanity necessary for this version of the classic story.

This is an ambitious production; yet despite all the stage magic employed there remains a strong focus on character and story.  I predict new opportunities for Eide and Carter as a result of these stellar performances; at least I hope so.  And with two sold-out opening weekend performances, October, Halloween, and Falcon’s new season are all off to a wonderful beginning.

FRANKENSTEIN runs through October 14th at Falcon Theatre in Newport, KY.  Click here for tickets and more information.