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Know’s “Mary’s Monster” Grabs You and Doesn’t Let Go

Review by Willie Caldwell  of “Mary’s Monster “: Know Theatre

Maggie Lou Rader in “Mary’s Monster”

Known as Cincinnati’s theatrical playground, the Know Theatre explores “Fear Itself” during the company’s 21st season. The experimental, and often avant-garde, theatre company embraces new works and emerging playwrights to create unique theatrical experiences on an intimate scale. “Mary’s Monster” embraces the macabre and brings to life one of the greatest horror writers of all time.

“Mary’s Monster” is a one woman show that tells the story of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the famed authoress of the gothic novel “Frankenstein”. The play is written and performed by Maggie Lou Rader, who brings Shelley’s story to life by weaving together a personal narrative rich in drama, intrigue, and tragedy. Born in August of 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft lived a life riddled with guilt as a result of her mother’s untimely death when she was still an infant. Surviving a difficult childhood, Mary would go on to begin a romance with the already married Percy Bysshe Shelley. The couple would face years of hardship and scandal resulting in the suicide of Percy’s first wife and the loss of three children. The story twists and turns leading to the fateful summer of 1816 when consumed by her grief and her demons, Mary births her most famous work and greatest monstrosity, “Frankenstein”.

At its heart, “Mary’s Monster” is a story about our creations owning us. This point becomes especially intriguing given Rader’s authorship of the one woman show and her painstaking desire to bring Shelley to life. Rader’s performance balances agonizing pain with humor, one-liners, and a healthy dose of feminist wit. As the play progresses, darkness and terror slowly begin to creep in, reminding audiences that the monsters are very real and often of our own making.

From a technical standpoint, the set is minimalistic and representational which allows Rader’s performance to become the focal point. The lighting design by Andrew J. Hungerford makes strong use of shadows adding to the set’s overall eeriness. The design is punctuated with the use of thunder and lightning effects which help create the dark and stormy night of Rader’s tale.

The play runs approximately 85 minutes with no intermission and a surprise ending that leaves audiences wondering who is the real monster. With the Halloween season already upon us, get into the spooky spirit and go see “Mary’s Monster” at Know Theatre.

“Mary’s Monster” runs from September 14-23 at Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. Tickets are available at the box office or by calling 513.300.5669.