BWW Reviews: Book-It's FRANKENSTEIN Filled with Chilling Imagery and Befuddling Choices
Sure, it's a story about a monster, but a monster that is looking for love and acceptance and his creator who's looking for power and the redemption they both seek from their mistaken paths to find their goals. Mary Shelley's novel manages all that within a simple gothic romance and David Quicksall's adaptation manages a somewhat gripping stage representation of that tale. Unfortunately while much of the staging of "Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus", currently presented by Book-It Repertory Theatre, offers chilling moments, many other choices within the show detract so much as to pull you from the story and leave it muddled.
It's still the same Frankenstein tale that's been told in many ways and through many genres. Scientist Victor Frankenstein (Connor Toms), in his search to cheat death, finds a way to reanimate dead tissue and creates a creature (Jim Hamerlinck) who at first seems wild and demonic but as he learns becomes a man striving for connection. But Victor is determined to stop the creature and chases him around Europe to destroy him, ultimately leading to both their demises.
It's the same old story that's already a winner but it's the telling of it that is in question. Quicksall manages to keep the narrative of the journal entries and letters intact while still keeping the story and action moving along. Unfortunately as director he also feels the need to insert bits of business that ultimately weigh down the production as they go on too long and don't add anything to the tale. A prime example being Victor's initial body dissection that continued without dialog as he hacked and carved into a fresh corpse removing organ after organ. Yes, it was amusing at first but as it progressed just became self indulgent. However he also makes some brilliant staging moves utilizing stunning imagery and gorgeously practical blocking that make up for much of the pace.
Toms walks the fine line between honesty and melodrama well and is thoroughly engaging throughout (a good thing since he's a good chunk of the show). Unfortunately much of the remainder of the show falls into that muddled bad choices realm, specifically much to do with the creature. It's not all Hamerlinck's fault as much of his work is focused and tight. But it's the choices surrounding his character that left me wanting. For some reason the design team mistook Frankenstein for Zombie and made the creature up to look like a badly done refuge from "The Walking Dead". Sorry, wrong monster. Plus, even though no one else in the show was really sporting an accent, the creature for some reason spoke in a vaguely Slavic tongue which made little sense. And finally, the creature's initial introduction was accompanied by a recorded voice over from the actor as he went through the staging which just felt unnecessary.
So even with much going for the show including a wonderful supporting cast, the drawbacks of the show cancel out much of the good and pulled me out of the story leaving it flat. All of which leads me to give a MEH with my three letter rating system. There was some good, but not enough to outweigh the bad. Kind of like Mary Shelley's creature himself.
"Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus" from Book-It Repertory Theatre performs at the Center Theatre through March 9th. For tickets or information contact the Book-It box office at 206-216-0833 or visit them online at www.book-it.org.