BWW Review: FRNKNSTN at The Abbey Theatre
"There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line." - Oscar Levant
A one-man show can be risky and unpredictable with the full weight of a production balancing on the shoulders of a single performer. However, this production's secret weapon lies with its creative team.
Writer Michael West artfully distills the dark essence of Mary Shelley's classic into a fateful 70 minutes, gratifying literary scholars and beguiling newcomers. Director Muireann Ahern no doubt enjoyed collaborating with her colleague, Louis Lovett, to unsettle and bewitch the audience. (Ahearn & Lovett are Joint Artistic Directors of Theatre Lovett.) And solo performer Louis Lovett was triumphant as both Victor Frankenstein and Frankenstein's monster, undertaking his heinous crusade with aplomb.
Cast in moody shadows, Ger Clancy's set is suitably dark and unnerving with stark and cleverly placed props - a gurney, screen, fan, and fluorescent light. Expertly layered with Sarah Jane Shiel's atmospheric lighting and Dank Murphy's foreboding sound effects, they ensured that none of the audience sat comfortably.
Lovett, a showman and polyglot, beguiles the audience from the start. Sharing a self-effacing personal incident, he cleverly eliminates the fourth wall before donning his veil as Victor. As brilliant scientist he manipulates DNA to defy the laws of God and nature, forging a hideous humanoid. He nimbly creates the creature, carelessly releases the creature, fervently pursues the creature, and then anxiously awaits its inevitable return.
With spontaneous outbursts of song, mime, and mimicry, Lovett shifts gears from lucid genius to conscience-stricken barbarian compelling the audience to engage as both confidant and counsel. A consummate illusionist, his physical transformation cleverly mirrors his shifts in sanity from impeccably attired gentleman (with an expertly knotted bow tie) to dishevelled maniac. And then back again. He deftly erases the line between genius and insanity, man and monster.
It is not difficult to see why this compelling opening run of FRNKNSTN was completely sold out and I keenly hope that it will be resurrected in the near future. I keep a short list of one-man show giants including Chazz Palminteri, Eamon Morrissey, and Hugh Jackman. I will be adding Mr. Lovett to my list.