ANW's Frankenstein Examines a Compassionate Creature Turned Monster

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater

I think there isn’t a person alive who has never heard of the monster called Frankenstein.  The legend has garnered innumerable movies, several versions on the stage, and, of course, one can read the original gothic novel by Mary Shelley.  But none teaches a more contemporary lesson in humanity than Nick Dear’s 21st Century rendition.  Onstage now for a short run at A Noise Within, the richly realized production, helmed by Michael Michetti, features an astounding, sympathetic performance by Michael Manuel as the creature.

Actually, “Frankenstein” refers to the creature’s creator (here played by Kasey Mahaffy as Victor), an unfeeling young scientist who lacks empathy, even for his fiancé, later to be the bride (the winsome Erica Soto).  When the creature escapes his bounds and blunders into the world, a De Lacy, a blind peasant (Harrison White) befriends him and teaches him how to be a human being --- reading and writing; even Milton.  But elsewhere in the world he learns the other aspects of civilization: how to steal, how to cheat, and most of all, how to lie. Always trying to get the attention of his creator, the creature abducts William (Christian Ganiere), Frankenstein’s young brother, with tragic results.

Michetti and his team construct a visual and aural extravaganza featuring dream sequences and impressionistic flash-backs to dramatize the story.  From the opening dumb show as the creature learns to walk and operate his unusable arm (thanks to movement director, Rhonda Kohl) to the more devastating vignettes as the creature becomes the monster we all remember (dramatized with menacing original music by Robert Oriol), the spectacle engages our senses.  State-of-the-art lighting (by Jared A. Sayeg) alternatingly thrills or frightens.  Garry Lennon’s exacting period costuming conveys the sense of time, while Françoise-Pierre Couture’s impressionistic scenic design swirls from one place to another. Most important, Angel Santori’s “creature make-up” and Shannon Hutchins’ wig and make-up design completes the picture.

ANW impeccable production no doubt deserves a longer run. But be sure to catch it this week-end

Frankenstein performs in short run through September 8, 2019 at A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107. There are post-show conversations scheduled on August 30, September 1 and September 6.Ticket prices start at $25.00 with student rush at $20. Phone (626) 356-3114 or online at