We Happy Few specializes in bringing classical plays to life- and what better classic to choose this Halloween season than Mary Shelley’s Gothic horror story, Frankenstein?
WHF’s devisors evoke not only Shelley’s original story but its Victorian sensibilities and mores. The play begins with Dr Victor Frankenstein’s (Scott Whalen) rescue at sea, which helps to underscore Dr Frankenstein’s deep regrets, and works its way backwards through the tale.
Part of We Happy Few’s Horror Rep trio – A Midnight Dreary and Dracula are the other two, this hour long show manages to encapsulate the best of Shelley’s words by skipping the Hollywood approach, giving us more than a spooky stroll through a well thumbed classic.
If you’ve not been to the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, it’s a small, space, rather like a tiny movie theatre, with seating on two sides of an aisle giving perfect views of what may be the smallest stage in our aea. We Happy Few and other companies make wonderful theatre there. Directors Robert Pike and Bridget Grace Sheaff use each inch of space and not a small amount of ingenuity to make it work beautifully. Four actors, Navid Azeez, Paige O’Malley, Stefany Pesta, and Scott Whalen, make up the cast, with Whalen playing Victor Frankenstein while the others play everyone else; it’s an impressive feat.
Flashlights, a painted stone wall, and some blue gels set the mood, yet the versatile, earthtoned costumes by Paige O’Malley transform the four actors into a ship captain, a beggar woman, a schoolboy and more. Props are few; two chairs and a scarf become Victor’s mother’s deathbed, for a short but moving scene.
closes November 10, 2018
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There’s humor at work here too. Gloom and upcoming doom are suggested by sounds from the actors: thumping chests become heartbeats, finger snaps become lightening, the stomp of boots, approaching terror. There are a few sidelong glances at the audience, most notably with Victor’s fiancée and his best friend, which serves to break what could otherwise be an oppressive mood.
The monster himself (often mistakenly called Frankenstein, but in reality unnamed in Shelley’s book) is cleverly played by a rudimentary puppet of brown papier maché (though the simple pipe arms are at odds with the design, and seem to be from another figure entirely). His voice is played alternately by members of the ensemble. This serves to underscore his humanity when he finally tells his side of the tale.
There are one or two missteps: as Victor becomes more and more deranged by grief and the choices he’s made, Whalen, (who, it must be said, possesses a beautiful speaking voice), resorts to overblown gestures. It is possible to confuse some of the action; one or two characters failed to gel after all that quick role-switching. The murder of Victor’s young brother (played by a simple newspaper doll) comes across as comedic rather than horrifying. There is a slightly unsuccessful, yet important, scene in which the monster, endeavoring to ape human society, becomes a murderer. And
But it’s a much better interpretation of Mary Shelley’s novel as opposed to the more familiar 1930s Hollywood film. Best of all, it’s an eloquent script, well directed by Robert Pike and Bridget Grace Sheaff and with a minimum of fluff. WHF’s show is how Frankenstein is best first encountered: a dark room, eerie lighting and Mary Shelley’s words.
“Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.”
You’ll need little else for a true horror story.
Performs in rep with DRACULA and A MIDNIGHT DREARY as a part of We Happy Few’s Horror Rep.
Frankenstein. Adapted from the novel by Mary Shelley . Devised by: Keith Hock, Kerry McGee, Paige O’Malley, Robert Pike, Sam Reilly, Jon Edwards . Directors: Robert Pike & Bridget Grace Sheaff . Cast: Navid Azeez, Paige O’Malley, Sefany Pesta, Scott Whalen . Lighting Design: Dan Smeriglio
Costume Supervisor: Paige O’Malley . Production Manager, Designer, Producer: Kerry McGee and Jon Reynolds . Produced by: We Happy Few . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.