Frankenstein

Ben Miles Reviews - Theater
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First produced by London’s National Theatre in 2011 to coincide with 200th anniversary of the book’s publication, Frankenstein now comes to life in the California premiere of Nick Dear’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s gothic novel at Pasadena’s A Noise Within Theatre. Under the masterful direction of Michael Michetti, this version of Frankenstein begins with the creation of The Creature.

Rejected out of fear by the scientist, the young Victor Frankenstein (Kasey Mahaffy), created him out of body parts and electrical reanimation. Mahaffy is dashing, obsessed, and emotionally nuanced in his embodiment of this youthful medical innovator. The Creature is characterized sympathetically by the marvelous Michael Manuel whose grueling physicality and visceral grunts and groans make us feel his mental and corporal agony. He finds himself loathed by those he encounters due to his formidable size and ghoulish, corpse-like appearance. He does, however, have an encounter with a blind man (a touching turn rendered by Harrison White) through whom he learns terms such as “love,” “paradise,” “consistency” and “inconsistency.”

Too bad when the blind man’s son and wife (solidly portrayed by Thomas Hobson and Tania Verafield, respectively) are scared to the point of thoughtless aggression and proceed to brutalize The Creature until he flees from their humble estate.

No mere creature feature, Dear’s stage version of the Shelley tale is a horror story, but it is about the horror that is inflected on the psyche of a negelected, rejected, alienated being—a sentient being—and the toll that such cruelty extracts from the abused being and that being’s reaction the insensitivity of others to his outlier appearance.

With a dark lighting design by Jared A. Sayeg, which invokes the psychological shadows that somehow haunt each of us; a scenic design by Francois-Pierre Couture that suggests an errie dreamscape; and  with late 18th century period-appropriate costuming by Garry Lennon, we in the  audience are transported to a time and place from which relief is felt once we are returned to our present day dilemmas. Yet we are made richer by discovering our own felt sympathy for The Creature.

With a sterling cast and ensemble—including Erika Soto performing duel characterizations as Elizabeth and The Female Creature (and whose fluid physical movements are mesmerizing); Bojorn Johnson as M. Frankenstein; and Christian Ganiere as the child, William Frankenstein (trading off performances with Van Brunelle)—as well as an original music composition and sound design by Robert Oriol, this Frankenstein is as much a morality play as it is a horror story, yet one is not inconsistent with the other.

Frankenstein—at two-hours with no intermission—continues at A Noise Within Theater through September 8  located at 3352 Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena, CA, 91107. For reservations call (626)356-3121. For online ticketing and further information visit www.anoisewithin.org.