Review by Alan Jozwiak of Frankenstein: Falcon Theatre
It is amazing how such a small word can contains worlds of meaning.
It is these depths that love can take which is central to the Nick Dear adaptation of Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein, currently being staged by Falcon Theatre. This script premiered in the Royal National Theatre on London, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating the roles of the Creature and Victor Frankenstein.
Stepping into these big shoes is a compelling cast that create an eerie and memorable evening of theatre. Seldom does Halloween fare strike the right note of being truthful to their source material, whle still conveying the horror depicted within the story.
This script hits that note and creates some memorable theatrical moments in the process.
One such moment comes at the start of the show. When the audiences comes on stage, the stage is bare save for a draped figure lying stage center on four stage blocks. The draped figure turns out to be the Creature (Olaf Eide), naked and struggling to come to life. The physicality exerted by Eide in this sequence was something completely unexpected and jarring enough to put the audience into the world of the Creature as he tries to figure out his surroundings. Eide is able to make his body a natural extension of the Creature’s emotions and it is amazing to watch Eide play with his movements on stage.
Unlike most versions of Frankenstein that start with Victor Frankenstein and his journey to create his monster, the play is told from the perspective of the Creature. In order to pull off the solid performance, Eide is completely in the moment as he plays the Creature. At turns quizzical, suffering, comical, revengeful, and lustful, Eide melds his physicality with the immensity of emotion that Creature feels and boils it down into emotionally relatable situations.
Another set of memorable moments comes with the interactions of the Creature and the blind DeLancy, beautifully played by Donald Volpenhein. Volpenhein plays the blind man who befriends the Creature very simply, but believably. We get to see enough different interactions with DeLancy and the Creature to get a sense of depth to their relationship. I have seen Volpenhein in many other plays, but this wonderfully crafted performance strikes me that Volpenhein is hitting a new level in his acting.
This production was also made memorable by all of the touches of humor, some of which almost become camp in their tone. The perpetual comic relief in this play Lisa Dirkes, who played various female roles and inevitably ended up being the necessary comic relief. She got big laughs throughout and provided some grounding for the broody melancholy of Luke Ashley Carter as Victor Frankenstein.
Carter plays Frankenstein like Hamlet on steroids, completely full of dark melancholy and brooding that deepens as the body count of his family members grows as a result of the Creature.
Like Eide, he is completely in the moment as he plays Victor Frankenstein. This is a difficult role to play, since Frankenstein dwells in a changing level of blackness from what he has done by creating the Creature. Carter sculpts Frankenstein’s despair and blackness into fine gradations that lead the viewer down that rabbit hole. The first appearance of Frankenstein in the middle of Act I is different from the man we see chasing the Creature in the Arctic at the end of Act II.
Debut director Paul Morris has done a wonderful job within this script and assembled a strong cast. Morris gets good performances out of his actors, so hopefully his other directorial efforts in the future will produce similar results.
Scenic Lighting and Design/Technical Consultant Jared Doran effectively uses video projections to create the backdrop for the actors. When the Creature goes off into the woods, the entire stage is transformed into a woodland area. Similarly, the laboratory was also effective with the projected electrical apparatus used to give life to the creature.
Overall, Frankenstein is a worthwhile evening of theatre. It is also demonstrating that Falcon Theatre is stepping up its game as a destination for all serious lovers of theater. This production adds to the great they work they did last season (Rabbit Hole, “Master Harold”. . . and the Boys) and the great work that will come this season.
To learn more about Falcon Theatre’s season and for tickets for their 2017-2018 theater series, go to their website http://falcontheater.net/.