Reviewed by Matt Ritchey
There’s a great quote about Mary Shelley’s classic tale Frankenstein: “Knowledge is knowing that Frankenstein is not the monster. Wisdom is knowing that Frankenstein IS the monster.” In the program for A Noise Within’s production of Nick Dear’s play, the characters are called “The Creature” and “Victor Frankenstein,” but even here, the analogy holds.
The story has been told countless times in as many mediums, but there’s something about Frankenstein that stays fresh. Michael Michetti’s production is beautifully bare-bones with trap doors, vertical wooden pillars, and two-way scrim well-purposed, leaving the majority of the focus on the acting and story. Michael Manuel does a truly magnificent job as The Creature, evoking pity, horror, laughter, and more than one bout of tears during his two-hour stage journey from the cradle to what may be his grave. Act One gives us the Creature’s tale, and we experience a terrified innocent learning the harsh realities of the world with no support and more than a fair share of abuse. No one wants this different-looking foreigner in their land – they are afraid of his looks and therefore pitchfork first and ask questions later.
His foil, Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Kasey Mahaffey), is indeed the monster. Unable to love anything other than himself and fueled by a desire to become God, Frankenstein abuses everyone in his life who loves him, eventually losing everything and ultimately turning into the thing he despised – a human reduced to little more than a rabid animal.
The performances are all good (including a beautiful dream ballet by Manuel and Mara Klein and a sweet sequence with Harrison White as DeLacey, the blind man), though style seems to be a bit uneven. Manuel gives a very grounded depiction, but many of the cast give off a more hyperbolic style, a few moments falling prey to monster clichés (“Oh God, what have I done!?” and “Noooo!”) and some dialogue getting stumbly when certain characters (the “lower class” citizens) eschew the accent they are clearly written to be played in. Overall, it’s a tightly wound evening with the expected high quality and professionalism for which A Noise Within is known.
Frankenstein is not only a powerful tale of an abandoned child trying to connect with his father but an indictment of a society that condemns people for their outward appearances, thus creating the very evil that they fear.
Photo (above) by Craig Schwartz: Kasey Mahaffy as Victor Frankenstein