BWW Review: FRANKENSTEIN at Southwest Shakespeare Company
BWW Review: Frankenstein
The power of classic literature is its ability to transport the reader to an imaginary world. The classic story of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is filled with terror, genius, and murder. In this adaptation for the stage by Quinn Mattfield, directed by Patrick Walsh, the overwhelming sense of dread is pervasive. There is a minimal set, expertly handled by the actors, which amplifies the haunted and empty feeling. The Creature's presence is felt whether he is on stage or not. The audience is left breathless as the tragedy unfolds; held captive by the fear of the unknown.
Jesse James Kamps plays Viktor Frankenstein with a cerebral air. There are hints of his lunacy, and an unsettling calmness about him; like his genius is too much for his brain to handle. Kamps has excellent chemistry with his cohorts and although Frankenstein is not meant to be likeable, Kamps is charming and the audience understands why Henry would befriend him.
As Elizabeth, Kim Stephenson Smith is smart, affable, and clever. She is a formidable opponent for Viktor and the Creature. She does not wilt in the face of danger or calamity and knows there is more than Viktor is telling her. Smith is an exceptional actress and handles the material deftly. The Creature is played by Joshua Murphy. It is apparent that the Creature is a tortured soul, although Murphy displays him with a measure of arrogance. Murphy is energetic, but menacing, and his physical strength adds another level of terror to an already intimidating presence.
The supporting cast is phenomenal. As there is a minimal set, the actors use their bodies to present the action. The coordinated movement of the set pieces, against the backdrop of the historic Globe stage replica, combined with the fantastic technical elements, the actors become the set which gives the story the full attention it deserves. As Henry Clerval, Dalton Davis is gregarious and kind. His smile brings a needed lightness to an otherwise depressing tale. As Professor Waldman and De Lacey, Doug Waldo is wonderful. He speaks clearly and is the perfect mentor. Beau Heckman plays multiple roles and is a master of facial expression and accents. Bonnie Beus Romney as Mary Walliser is involved in one of the most striking and disconcerting scenes in the show. She handles the role with dexterity and grace. Playing two of the younger roles, Bethany Baca is charming. Kellyn Masters played several roles and also sang the haunting melody that underscored several of the scenes. She is wonderful singer and brings a delightful presence to the proceedings. Despite the seriousness of the story, there is humor to be found and the cast handled these moments beautifully. Ryan L. Jenkins and Seth Scott play Agatha and Felix, respectively. As the family who teaches the Creature about humanity and love, Jenkins and Scott have a natural chemistry. Jenkins is sincere and she presents the terror a mother would feel knowing her family is in danger. Scott plays Felix with sincerity. It is easy for the audience to believe this family and what the Creature learned from them. Melissa Toomey plays William, whom the audience never sees, but his presence is imperative to the unraveling of Viktor. She appears as other characters on stage and rounds out this fantastic ensemble.
This adaptation is not a direct re-telling of the novel, but it adds much to the character and humanity of the Creature. There is some shuffling of the dialogue in the timeline, but is an accurate representation of the plight of humanity at the hands of a thoughtless creator. Frankenstein, presented by Southwest Shakespeare Company in its 25th Anniversary season, runs through November 7th at Mesa Arts Center.
Photo Courtesy of Southwest Shakespeare Company