GODS AND MONSTERS Stage Adaptation to be Presented at Theater Wit in 2024

The play will have a strictly limited engagement at Theater Wit in May 2024.

By: Dec. 11, 2023
GODS AND MONSTERS Stage Adaptation to be Presented at Theater Wit in 2024

A new stage production of “Gods and Monsters,” based on the 1995 novel “Father of Frankenstein” by Christopher Bram, is being reimagined by two Chicago theater artists who are swapping seats in the rehearsal room and making race the primary theme of the play.

Paul Oakley Stovall, a writer and actor who has written extensively for stage and screen, will direct the play while Tom Mullen, a veteran Chicago-based theater director, is writing the new adaptation. The play will have a strictly limited engagement at Theater Wit in May 2024.

Mullen and Stovall conceived the idea for the project upon studying the extensive work by English film director James Whale, renowned for directing more than 20 feature films in the 1930s, including the classic horror films “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein.” Whale exhibited a discerning ability to capture the humanity, heart and humor of characters, particularly within the horror film genre of this decade. The two posit that Whale's homosexuality played a pivotal role in enabling him to adopt an unconventional perspective, allowing him to scrutinize mainstream norms with a detached and critical eye. They contend that his empathy for outsiders and the oppressed, evident in his rendition of “Show Boat” (1936) reinforces this notion.

The new “Gods and Monsters” comes 25 years after the 1998 film starring Ian McKellan and Brendan Fraser, which earned director and screenwriter Bill Condon the Academy Award for screenplay adaptation.

Like the film and the novel, the new play focuses on Whale’s last days. As his health diminishes, the director reminisces about his life while finding himself beguiled by a young landscaper, Clayton Boone, who tends his grounds. In the new play, the entirely fictitious character of Boone will be played by a Black actor. In addition, the character of Whale’s housekeeper, in keeping with the novel, will be a Mexican immigrant. In the film, that character was reimagined as a Hungarian immigrant played by Lynn Redgrave, who was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe Award.

Mullen said that he was eager to introduce race as a theme into the production after researching Whale’s career and learning more about “Show Boat,” which featured the legendary actor,

singer and Black activist Paul Robeson. It is widely considered to be the best of the musical’s film adaptations.

“The title ‘Gods and Monsters’ almost implies a tale of good and evil, of a benevolent force versus a destructive one,” said Stovall.” But what draws me to this story is that it’s all about the places in between. It’s about what’s just under the surface in all of us and how people who can seem so different are always so very similar because we are all made of the same star stuff. We live in the same world and we want the same things.”

Author Christopher Bram has given Stovall and Mullen his full support in developing this new production. "I am very excited to see ‘Gods and Monsters’ given a whole new life by Tom and Paul,” he said. “My story is in excellent hands."

Paul Oakley Stovall makes his directing debut with “Gods and Monsters” following a prolific acting career that has included leading roles in Chicago productions (“Twelfth Night,” “Play On!”) as well as several national tours, including Hamilton, in which he played George Washington. A co-producer of Broadway’s “A Strange Loop,” which won the Tony Award for Best Musical , Stovall has authored the plays “Immediate Family,” “Ape.” “Written by Phillis,” co-written by Marilyn Campbell, and the musical “Alkebulan,” and he has written extensively for television and film.

Tom Mullen’s expansive career as a director has included the off-Broadway musical “Tomorrow Morning” at the York Theatre; Joe DiPietro's “F**cking Men” for Bailiwick Chicago; “Urinetown” in Chicago; the American premiere of the musical “Departure Lounge;” and “Creatives” (Best Musical Nominee Edinburgh Fringe Festival) among many others. He has directed several world premieres of new plays and musicals, including “Trainspotting, USA,” which he also adapted from the Irvine Welsh novel. Most recently he has written the book of a new musical, “Welcome To The Pines,” which centers around the early days of Fire Island’s queer enclave.

For more information visit: www.godsandmonstersonstage.com