Also see Tracy's review of Polaroid Stories
There are few people who are unfamiliar with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The horrific tale of the man-made monster is a warning to those who wish to embark on god-like endeavors. The question is, with all of the incarnations this story has gone through, does the world need yet one more? Playwright Neal Bell has done his best to convince us that it does with his adaptation called Monster.
Currently running at Olney Theatre Center, Monster provides a decidedly unnerving look at the classic tale. For the most part, Bell’s script is powerful. His monster is extremely intense and quite sexually aware. However, there are some elements that seem out of place. In the end, the script appears to get caught up in itself, and the overall effect is quite dissatisfying.
The direction, provided by Jim Petosa, is very strong. He has created a presentation that is both visually and emotionally intriguing. He uses his actors vigorously without allowing them to give overly dramatic or campy performances.
Christopher Lane and Jeffries Thaiss
The cast includes several Washington theater vets. Jeffries Thaiss is very strong as the resolute Dr. Frankenstein. His transition from youthful experimenter to mature creator is seamless. Valerie Leonard plays a dual role as Frankenstein’s mother and the saucy servant who is doomed to be one of the monster’s victims. She is especially potent as the latter.
The two standout performances in this piece belong to Will Gartshore and Christopher Lane. Gartshore shows off great versatility as both Frankenstein’s sly cat and his juvenile younger brother. Physically, he becomes the feline. In fact, anyone who has owned or even just observed a cat will be able to see that Gartshore has done his research.
Christopher Lane’s portrayal of the creature is almost too difficult to watch. He makes one feel every bit of physical and psychological pain that the character is going through. His plaintive cry, “I want ...” is enough to make a chill run down the heartiest of spines.
The set design by James Kronzer is haunting, but the full impact of his design is not felt till the second act. Lighting design by Harold F. Burgess, II serves to enhance the picture.
Most of the elements for a successful play are in evidence in this show. Unfortunately, Monster never really lives up to its potential. However, like the driven Victor Frankenstein, there is no doubt that Monster is an ambitious piece of work.
Olney Theatre Center
Cast List (in order of appearance)
Walton: Paul Morella