Review by David Walters
On Classic Stage Company’s (CSC) thrust stage, there is industrial metal furniture, lamps and a large course table that you see when you first walk in. It looks like it’s going to be fun. Fun because this set is letting you know that this is going to be about storytelling; and the storytellers, or actors, will need to be in full form as there are only two of them as per the poster in the lobby (programs are online to save costs, here), and the tale is iconic.
Through media exposure, we all have a version of Frankenstein in our minds that has been assembled through the years from a million sources and there are not many of us who have ever read the novel, thus we don’t really know the story as Mary Shelley put it down (it came out of a bet when she was 18 on who could tell the scariest story). I’ll admit my ignorance; for me, Mel Brooks’ version has a more prominent place on the bookshelf of my recollection, thus, there are many things that I didn’t know.
We all have a general idea that Frankenstein is not really the name of the monster, then who is he? In the book, he is only referred to as: creature, monster, demon, wretch, abortion, fiend and it.
Though this production will not give you the complete full story from the book, this version will give you an in-depth journey into life itself and the needs that we possess that drive and torture us all.
Tristan Bernays‘ adaption at CSC of Mary Shelley’s book relies on the Creature’s narrative in the storytelling it presents (in the book there is also Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s and Captain Walton’s narrative), concentrating on creation, acceptance, what it means to be alive, the need to belong to someone or something, the need for love and the pain from the lack thereof that festers and breeds anger and revenge against those who won’t give it.
“I need me love.”
“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”
In replicating the smaller parts of the human body, Victor makes the creature over eight feet tall. Stephanie Berry, as the Monster, though not physically that tall, is twice that in her stature as an actress and the life that she brings to her portrayal. As the fiend, she creates an imposing presence as well as heartfelt innocence as she learns and experiences the life (and the audience) around her. Her convincing of Dr. Frankenstein to attempt to make a female version for companionship comes from the longing and soul of us all. Five stars for her work on this production.
The multi-talented actor/musician Rob Morrison is “The Chorus.” He plays several characters (Blind man, Dr. Frankenstein, Elizabeth Frankenstein), ties the threads of the story together, as well as adding eerie live on-stage music and sound effects with guitar, mandolin, and dulcimer.
Frankenstein by Tristan Bernays, based on the novel by Mary Shelley, directed by Timothy Douglas
Starring Stephanie Berry and Rob Morrison
80 minutes no intermission
Closes March 8, 2020