Doctor Victor Frankenstein’s “Creature” – childlike in his innocence — is cast out into society by his horror-struck maker. As he learns to survive and master the highest of human skills, he searches for his creator to make a terrifying deal. Commemorating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s gothic science-fiction tale, Frankenstein brings up urgent and contemporary concerns about scientific responsibility and the very nature of good and evil. This bold new ensemble-based production uses company-devised movement and a futuristic production design to share this classic tale from a truly twenty-first century perspective.
Frankenstein — It’s Really Alive!
One by one, the characters/performers emerge from the monster, ripping themselves from the theatrical amalgam to become an atomized self. Each actor is given a chance to be the lead voice of the creature — as well as to embody another character. The most consistent feature of the “monster” is its innocence, its passionate spontaneity, whether it takes the contradictory forms of cruelty or kindness... Each actor/character is a part of the creature, which challenges us to see that Victor is doing more than refusing to take responsibility for nurturing his creation. He is turning his back on his duty to society. The Nora Theatre Company cast is outstanding... The dialogue, at its best, has a poetic directness, suggesting a modern version of a Greek chorus or a passion play, generating complex emotional and intellectual resonances. Director David R. Gammons’ background as a visual artist proves to be invaluable. The lighting shifts, brilliantly, from bright incandescence to cold fluorescence. Ominous, ambient music enhances the brooding setting. The result is that Gammons and the NTC’s superb design team have come up with a haunting vision of a world that combines the primal and the scientific. The 19th century context of his play has been placed into an alien, fantastical dimension, an imaginative space that makes the most of Dear’s intent to explore contemporary ideas, particularly about female sexuality.
- David Cruz, The Arts Fuse
Frankenstein is an Immaculate Ode to its Literary Predecessor
The opening sequence of Gammons’ Frankenstein is physical, and almost carnal. When the Creature emerges, a hodgepodge of bodies, it meets its maker in a sequence that mirrors Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. And then the Creature is cast out. Frankenstein is not a seven-foot-tall green zombie with peas for brains and hand-eye coordination rivaling a toddler. Frankenstein’s Creature is at first an innocent abomination of science, abandoned and left to discover for itself what humanity is and where it falls in that definition. And just like in Shelley’s novel, Dear’s adaptation aptly resuscitates the themes of original sin, the moral responsibility of science, and the relationship between child and parent. The play closely follows the novel, not sugarcoating the themes or falling back on lame pop-culture references. And by choosing not to age the production by plugging modern references, the play does a fantastic job of presenting just how timeless Shelley’s story is. The cast is small — only six members — and the set is equally restricted. But The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater found a perfect balance between the demands of the story and a small production. All six actors rotate among 16 distinct characters in a seamless and flowing rhythm. At no point does this rotation distract from the storytelling; the choice to have each actor play multiple characters introduces a new idea: everybody in this story is interconnected and shares a relationship with one another. The modular design of the set’s central structure allows multiple distinctive settings: it takes you from a mad scientist’s laboratory, to a small cottage in the countryside, to a villa on the Scottish shore, to a mountain top in Switzerland... Gammons’ presentation was on par with the literary counterpart; while most theatrical adaptations might lose some pieces of the masterwork in translation, this version of Frankenstein was beautifully and immaculately realized on the stage.
- Nyssa Miller, The Tech
A Fearless, and Therefore Powerful, Frankenstein
... This Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater production at Central Square Theater is a monster of a different color entirely. But with a director like David R. Gammons at the helm, how could we expect any less?... Gammons, one of Boston’s most intriguing visionaries, has made Frankenstein into a high-concept marvel of theatricality, the audacity of which will repel some but beguile others... it nonetheless remains a transfixing experience worthy of your time... The creature, in this case, is played by all six members of the cast, sometimes all at once and other times just by a few... The actors take turns breaking free from playing the creature to play secondary parts, and take turns giving voice to the monster... But part of what makes this Frankenstein so impressive is the first-rate design elements that give it its spirit. Cristina Todesco’s multipurpose, industrial blank canvas set works wonders along with Jeff Adelberg’s terrific lighting design, and Rachel Padula’s costumes are refreshingly original.
- Christopher Ehlers, The Boston Dig
Adapted by Nick Dear from the Novel by Mary Shelley
October 4 — November 4, 2018
Underground Railway Theater and Nora Theatre Company
In Association with Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT
Photos: David R. Gammons