Review by Willard Manus

Some monsters never die.

Mary Shelley wrote a novel called “Frankenstein (Or the Modern Prometheus”) back in 1818 when she was eighteen. A philosophical novel based on the ideas of her famous father, William Godwin, “Frankenstein” took the position that man is a tabula rasa, an unwritten entity shaped by environment. Doctor Frankenstein, a young student, animates a soulless monster made out of cadavers by means of galvanism. Bad move. The doctor tried to push man’s knowledge beyond where it should go...and paid the price when the creature (who had learned to speak and reason) turns on him out of resentment for the inhuman way he’s been treated.

A 1927 play by Peggy Webling caught Hollywod’s eye and was turned into a successful film starring Boris Karloff. Endless versions of the Frankenstein story have followed, starring everyone from Bela Lugosi to Abbott and Costello to Peter Boyle.

Now we have yet another FRANKENSTEIN, this one put together by Four Larks theatre company and produced at The Wallis. It is something of a mish-mosh, a mixture of scenes from the original novel, lines from other sources, musical numbers, and physical theatre. The story takes place on Sebastian Peters-Lazaro’s towering set comprised of stacks of skeletons, scientific equipment, books, globes, and bicycles. In this weird, eerie laboratory, Doctor Victor Frankenstein (Kila Packett) leads his raffish students on a quest to expand mankind’s knowledge by creating a human being out of dead-body parts.

Mary Shelley (Claire Woolner) is there to comment on his work and spur him on. The students also burst into tuneless song from time to time (and/or tootle away on their violins and guitars). Things finally coalesce and become interesting when work on the creature (Max Baumgarten) begins to pay off (helped by a lightning storm) and he comes to life, accompanied by unearthly wails and screams of pain. Soon we begin to realize that he’s an innocent longing for human connection and communion. Unfortunately, his creator, Dr Frankenstein, has other ideas for him. Their final confrontation scene is powerful and heart-breaking.

FRANKENSTEIN runs 75 minutes, which is not enough time to tell a complicated story in a coherent way. There were good scenes all along the way but someone must figure out how to keep them from being muddled and wasted.

FRANKENSTEIN was adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel by Mat Sweeney, Sebastian Peters-Lazaro and Jesse Rasmussen. The director and composer was Mat Diafos Sweeney.

(Lovelace Studio Theatre at The Wallis, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Phone 310-746-4000 or visit