An amazing evening of storytelling, Maggie Lou Rader’s “Mary’s Monsters” is a must see. You’re in for an electric on-the-edge-of-your-seat evening to hear the truth is stranger than fiction life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, daughter, wife, sister, and haunted writer of Frankenstein, expertly written by and performed by Cincinnati’s Maggie Lou Rader.
In a simple (but perfect) setting, Rader digs into the character that provides more nuance, and richness in tone than one would imagine. There’s a lot of humor, some self-deprecating, but there’s also irony, and a real connection with the modern audience (such as saying–deliciously–what any modern woman is thinking, discovering her husband is a philanderer). But that is only part of Mary’s story, whose mother died a few days after she was born. She’s obsessed with and haunted by death all her life, losing children, and imagining what wonders science can still behold, if it were possible to bring the dead back to life.
These many spirits haunt her, motivating her, harbingers of grief to come, pulling her from completing her masterpiece of fiction, as she desperately tries to focus in a household of children and a noted romantic poet. This story sent me right to Wikipedia and to pull my copy of “Frankenstein” off the shelf, hoping to squeeze in a reread with the new understanding of her life.
The play is not without a few issues. The beginning is entirely riveting and she unfolds the story seamlessly. But there’s a point about three-quarters of the way through that it gets a bit long (the momentum dips in the boat scene) and then there’s a prop choice which got some unintended giggles from the audience.
Kudos to director Jennifer Joplin, as she guided the writer and actress to animate this amazing story (you’ll be shocked you didn’t know it!) Andrew Hungerford’s tremendously effective pit, backdrop, lights and sound are another character, richly echoing or foretelling coming events in this riveting story. Noelle Johnston chose the perfect clothing to help define this amazing woman.
Get your tickets ASAP for this limited run, only through September 23 at knowtheatre.com or 513-300-5669. (85 minutes, no intermission)