VIDEO: Watch a Teaser for MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN at Cleveland Play House

The production is currently running through November 12.

By: Nov. 05, 2023

Cleveland Play House presents a reimagined adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a haunting and highly theatrical adaptation of the classic horror story. Just in time for Halloween, this sensual, poetic adaptation by David Catlin currently running through November 12 in the Outcalt Theatre, located in the heart of Playhouse Square. Directed by Michael Barakiva, the production features Josh Bates, Madeline Calais, Ellen Grace Diehl, Gavin Michaels, and Kayodè Soyemi.

Watch a teaser trailer for the production below!

While a vicious storm rages outside an old villa in Switzerland, a teenage Mary Shelley accepts the challenge to tell a terrifying tale. Casting her friends as characters, she soon gives life to one of literature's greatest creations. And as the story travels from the North Pole to Victor Frankenstein's infamous lab, the line between fact and fiction begins to blur. This adventurous adaptation illuminates the real-life "monsters" that haunted Mary's greatest work, bringing what's buried back to life.

Interim Artistic Director Mark Cuddy says, "A landmark novel written by a teenager afraid to place her name on it sparked over two centuries of scholarship and interpretations." Cuddy says, "The nameless creature cobbled together and brought to life by the character of Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's novel has assumed the moniker of his tortured scientist creator in the mind of the general public."

Born in 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley was the English novelist who penned the Gothic story, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Shelley was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, both writers and radical political thinkers; her mother died giving birth to her. She met Percy Bysshe Shelley, declared her love to him, and eloped to Europe while he was still married. She endured a lifelong conflict with her father who, though he preached "free love," was unhappy when Mary practiced it. Mary almost died of a miscarriage and the result of that traumatic event is what led Mary to write the story of Frankenstein. She later had four children; unfortunately, only one of them survived to adulthood and outlived her. Shelley first shared her story about Victor Frankenstein with several friends on a dark and stormy night in the summer of 1816. Throughout her lifetime, she penned several other novels, including Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck (1830), Lodore (1835), and Falkner (1837), and a travel book, History of a Six Weeks' Tour (1817).

Critics have called Frankenstein an allegory, a fable, an epistolary novel, and even an autobiography. The story centers on Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was 18, and the first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818, when she was 20. Her name first appeared in the second edition, which was published in Paris in 1821. The investigative book, Graphing Jane Austen: The Evolutionary Basis of Literary Meaning, describes Frankenstein's creature as a composite of whole body parts grafted together from cadavers and reanimated by the use of electricity; however, this description is not consistent with Shelley's work. The use of electricity and the cobbled-together image of a man-made monster were most likely the result of the James Whale 1931 cult film, Frankenstein, which was adapted from Peggy Webling's 1927 play.

This adaptation of the novel was written by David Catlin, an ensemble member of Chicago's notable Lookingglass Theatre Company. A story of a female protagonist, a horror story, and story about grief and loneliness, this Catlin investigates several themes and ideologies including, what makes us human, female intuition, our need to be loved, and the dangers of playing God with life and death. Catlin's story centers around Mary Shelley telling the tale of a misunderstood monster to some of the men who "haunted" her real life, including Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Playwright David Catlin says, "Mary Shelley holds up our desire to play God, to usurp the natural order. When we were younger, we turned clouds into camels and castles and steamships." Catlin says, "We played with stuffed animals, dolls, with G.I. Joes, bringing them to vivid life - determining whom they loved, how they died, and if they were reborn. We created whole universes with Legos and Transformers. Our imaginations pushed beyond the boundaries of possibility. We made the impossible - like wee young gods."

Catlin's adaptation premiered in Chicago in 2019 and has played regionally, including at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey.

At the helm of the CPH production is celebrated director Michael Barakiva, who recently served as co-director of Ken Ludwig's Moriarty: A New Sherlock Holmes Adventure. The play operates on several layers of reality. For this production, Barakiva aims for three different levels of experience: reality (Mary and her friends), the "tingling" (when they're sort of lingering between reality and storytelling and the two are starting to blur), and "the ride" (when they're fully immersed in their roles and the storytelling). The design element will work together to create the kind of expressionistic magic that only live theatre can provide - and all of this in the intimate Outcalt Theatre, with audience members surrounding the action.

Cuddy says, "The collective talent and intellect of playwright, director, and creative artists have been 'stitched' together for a one-of-a-kind 'creature.' It lives and breathes onstage not only from their sparks of imagination, but also from your heartbeat."

The design team includes scenic and costume design by Lex Liang, lighting design by Jakyung C. Seo, sound design by Sharath Patel, and wig design by Jason Hayes. Additional creative team members include: John Godbout (stage manager), Derek A. Graham (music composer), Casey Venema (intimacy direction), Kenya Woods (movement and choreography), José Pérez IV (fight choreography), Craig Joseph (dramaturgy), Shunté Lofton (assistant director), and Matthew Koenig (dialect coach).

This production contains sexual innuendo and banter; images of horror and death; stylized murder; stylized physical and sexual intimacy of many varieties; discussions of infant death; presentation of blood and corpses; drug usage; gunshots and other loud noises; smoke, fog, and strobe effects.

Running from October 21 through November 12, 2023, in Playhouse Square's Outcalt Theatre, evening performances of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein are held Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 PM; and on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 PM. Matinee performances are held on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 PM. Additionally, an evening performance will be held on Sunday, October 22 at 6:30 PM.

Tickets start at $30. Student tickets are $15 (valid student ID required). Ohio Direction/EBT cardholders receive $5 admission to any performance (up to eight tickets). Military personnel and their immediate families receive 50% off tickets. Seniors may receive $10 off tickets. Groups of 20+ can save up to 30% on their purchase. Single tickets can be purchased by calling 216.241.6000. All tickets can be purchased by visiting the link below.

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