It is Halloween season and here is a staging of one of the classic monster stories. This production isn't a rehash of Boris Karloff's Universal Studios version, but a direct adaptation of Mary Shelley's Gothic novel for the stage. Victor Gialanella, the playwright, first brought this version to Broadway in 1981 and his adaptation of this classic tale of horror and suspense details the ill-fated experiments of Dr. Frankenstein as he attempts to fathom the secrets of life and death. Purchasing cadavers from unsavoury grave robbers, he gives life to a creature which is both powerful and terrifying, yet touchingly innocent... but there is a high price to be paid for attempting to play God.
Reviews of the play
"At its core, FRANKENSTEIN has never been horror, but Shakespearian tragedy - the man who knows too much and has too few ethics, the being with too little knowledge but gargantuan feelings without the words to convey them, and the people around them forced to suffer from their poor choices. It's a tale more unsettling than anything else, and... feeling unsettled may be the scariest feeling of all. If you can leave this production of FRANKENSTEIN without having questions in your mind about humanity and responsibility, you haven't been paying attention. FRANKENSTEIN, like Halloween itself, is much more than thrills and chills. See this production, and face your fears." Marakay Rogers, Broadway World 2017.
"Gialanella, just like Shelley, makes Frankenstein's creation the character with the most layers and growth... it's hard to believe that you can actually feel compassion for someone who kills, yet...it's easy to feel a deep sympathy for this lost soul who didn't ask to be born." Gil Benbrook, talkinbroadway.com
In line with our EDI policy, we undertake an EDI impact assessment of all our artistic programming. 'Frankenstein' by Victor Gialanella has no specific diversity message within its narrative. The play can be cast with complete neutrality on gender and race/ethnicity.
Review by Chris Arnot
Boris was billed to appear on something called the Horror Channel. Boris Karloff, that is – the man who, according to my morning newspaper, “defined forever the way that Frankenstein’s monster looks and acts in the popular imagination”.
Karloff’s version was first screened in 1931. Fifty years later Victor Gialanellabrought the monstrous creation to the Broadway stage with an adaptation far closer to Mary Shelley’s original novel. And that’s the version that opened at the Criterion on what might be termed “Hallow’eve”: the night before Hallowe’en.
Dr Victor Frankenstein is played by Kate Ray. Well, this is the 21st century and women take on parts written for men. With aplomb in some cases, and this is one of them. Despite her lack of physical stature, Ms Ray projects a seemingly fearless authority. On stage, that is. Personally I found her voice sometimes difficult to discern while conveyed through a sound system in those, thankfully, brief moments when the curtains were closed.
The “Creature” she creates is played by Lukasz Nowacki with an all too literally towering performance. Having been brought back to life, he lumbers around the stage with death in his fearful grip. His is a life without a soul. He has feelings seemingly bursting from his shaved and scarred head but no adequate way of expressing them.
His creation had been a particularly memorable scene, under Steve Brown’s direction. First a body dangling like a corpse beneath gallows. Then fierce twitches after the application of electricity.Not quite enough, however. The irony is that Dr Frankenstein had briefly left the laboratory when the corpse regainedconsciousness through a fearful thunder storm. Lightning rather than enlightenment proved the tipping point between death and life in this case.
Death is strewn around the stage as events unfold. Eventually the would-be creator of life from death is added to the body count. Yes, Dr Frankenstein is killed. On his wedding day, what’s more. His would-be wife and her father are victims too. Here comes not the bride.
Moral: do not try to create new life without soul or the means to relate to other living beings. Mary Shelley’s fearsome creation was dreamed up just over 200 years ago. But here is vivid proof that her work still has resonance today.