by Willard Manus
Some monsters never die.
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 mans 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 hes been treated.
A 1927 play by Peggy Webling caught Hollywods 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-Lazaros 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 mankinds 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
hes 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.
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 Shelleys 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 thewallis.org/frankenstein)