FRANKENSTEINby Nick Dear
Adapted from the novel by Mary Shelley
Dallas Theater Center
Directed by Joel Ferrell
Scenic Design by Amelia Bransky
Costume Design by Beth Goldenberg
Sound Design/Original Music by Ryan Rumery
Lighting Design by Tyler Micoleau
Projection Design by David Bengali
Fight Coordination by Jeff Colangelo
Wig and Make-Up Design by Leah Loukas
The Creature --- Kim Fischer
Victor Frankenstein --- Alex Organ
Gretel/Clarice ---Chris Sanders
Gustav/Ensemble --- Galen Sho Sato
Klaus/Ensemble --- Aaron Campbell
De Lacey/Ewan ---Blake Hackler
Felix --- Richard Johnson
Agatha/The Female Creature --- Tia Laulusa
Elizabeth Lavenza --- Jolly Abraham
William Frankenstein --- Donovan Covarrubias
Monsier Frankenstein --- Kieran Connolly
Rab/Ensemble ---Neil Redfield
Felix/Constable --- Richard Johnson
Ensemble --- Jeliannys Acevedo Cuadrado, Sydney Lo, Deanna Ott, Dakota Ratliff, Molly Searcy
Reviewed Performance: 2/7/2018
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
A 200-year-old horror story by an eighteen year old, written to answer a challenge given by friends, has become a standard in the lexicon of great monster tales. This adaptation by Nick Dear had a sell-out run at London's National Theatre with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating in the roles of Frankenstein and his Creature. Their performances were filmed and shown in movie theaters in Britain and the United States.
Director Joel Ferrell has put together a superb production, wrangling top-level scenic, lighting, sound, costume and especially projection design, along with an outstanding cast of actors. Utilizing the space of the Kalita Humphreys stage area in an all-encompassing manner, he manages to draw the audience in, and immerse us in this story of a creator and his creation.
Subtitled "or, the Modern Prometheus," Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein, scientist and risk-taker, who like Prometheus of old, creates a man, and gives the world the gift of fire wrapped in the re-constructed body of a desperate, questioning creature. While Prometheus creates a man of clay, Frankenstein builds his Creature from human remains. The script by Nick Dear doesn't shy away from the philosophical questions or biblical comparisons, making his writing unusual in today's theater, and fascinating to hear and contemplate.
It is to Mr. Farrell's credit, and his stellar cast, that these questions and comparisons are presented in the context of the tale, and not as diatribes. We sympathize with and are repelled by the Creature's actions in equal manner. His questions: "Why did you abandon me? Why did you create me?" and "because I look like this - because I'm different," are not questions or statements to be taken lightly. The performers don't, and neither will you.
In the role of The Creature, Kim Fischer gives a fearless and totally heart-rending performance. Straining his physical body in unimaginable contortions at the beginning through long stretches of little or no dialogue, and later his mind as he grasps for answers, everything is laid out clear as crystal for us to experience with him. Each moment, layers of discovery, confusion, pain and delight flicker across his face and are reflected in his complete body. It is truly a performance not to be missed. (Also, kudos to Leah Loukas for The Creature's make-up design.)
"I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel."
In the extraordinarily difficult role of Victor Frankenstein, Alex Organ strides confidently across the stage presenting a façade of serene respectability while still managing to gives us glimpses of the questioning and fearful man hiding inside. The role is not one we easily identify with, and it is to Mr. Organ's credit that while he doesn't shy away from the ego and thoughtless actions, he still gives us true moments of compassion and understanding. The scene where he gives in to The Creature's desire for a female companion shows us all we need to know about this man. This is not a man to admire, but rather one to contemplate with questioning of our own sometime actions.
"What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?"
Jolly Abraham is Elizabeth Lavenza, Frankenstein's betrothed. She plays the role with grace and natural beauty, giving Elizabeth an inner strength that belies the docile exterior. Kieran Connolly and Blake Hackler also shine in their supporting roles, as does the young Donovan Covarrubias who is particularly good in his second scene in Frankenstein's dream. The entire cast is very strong, with clear characterizations and intentions from even those with the least stage time. As part of the association with the Theatre Division of the Meadows School of the Arts, scenic design is by Amelia Bransky, an SMU grad student in design, and is truly amazing. An all-encompassing environment, with the feeling of an enormous cage, dwarfing and enslaving the characters caught in their struggles, accentuated by the tension of strong diagonals on the side stages. Two moving set pieces, that when together and facing the audience look somewhat like an open book, assume many different configurations in this fluid and cinematic adaptation. The set forms the surface for the astounding array of projections designed by David Bengali. Without these projections, the impact of the production would be far less. I was truly mesmerized by the choices.
Sound design and original music by Ryan Rumery help the show thread the fine line between "mellerdrammer" and strong dramatic presentation. The atmospheric and moment-punctuating sounds and music work perfectly to help create a smooth and consistent tone for the production. Lighting design by Tyler Micoleau is no less effective as he uses light and shadow, angles and strong doses of intense color to "illuminate" each beat of the story. Beth Goldenberg's costumes are period-appropriate and define characters while managing to look like actual clothing and not costumes. I loved the innocence of the blue-themed introduction of William's character. All the remoteness of this seemingly perfect world were suddenly there before us in color and light.
Joel Ferrell's sure hand, clear vision and strong eye for composition coupled with his true feel for real emotion, make this a show to be savored long after the final standing ovation has faded. Moments build truthfully, the arc of each scene, character and overall story are clearly orchestrated and seamlessly put together for maximum impact. Questions that matter and beg to be discussed are given visualization, and we are drawn into conflicts that are of consequence.
What is the relationship between Creator and Created? The final hand-reach between Frankenstein and his Creature echoes that iconic one on the Sistine Chapel ceiling for a reason. Don't miss this one. Frankenstein at the Dallas Theater Center demands your attention and gets it.
"Heavy misfortunes have befallen us, but let us only cling closer to what remains and transfer our love for those whom we have lost to those who yet live."
All quotes are from Mary Shelley's novel, FRANKENSTEIN.
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd
Dallas, TX 75204
Final Performance, March 4th, 2018
Tickets $20 - $101, subject to change
Tickets and information at www.DallasTheaterCenter.org or (214) 880-0202