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Frankenstein's Monster is Drunk and the Sheep Have all Jumped the Fences

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - January 17, 2023

Nicky Harley, Vicky Allen, Rhodri Lewis, and Chris Robinson
Photo by Neil Harrison
Frankenstein's Monster is Drunk and the Sheep Have all Jumped the Fences, a production of Big Telly Theatre Company opening tonight at 59E59 Theaters as part of Origin Theatre's 1st Irish Festival, is about as loose-knit and fringy as it gets.

Written and directed by Big Telly's artistic director Zoe Seaton, the play draws from Owen Booth's short story of the same title. Both the story and the play begin like this: "They'd dug him out of the glacier in 1946, where he'd crawled after his Hollywood career had given up the ghost." The "he" in this case is Frankenstein's Monster, who, it seems, played himself in several motion pictures until job offers disappeared, as did he.

The action starts with the discovery of the Monster's frozen body, which slowly comes to life. Over time, he becomes part of the community, even finding a mate long after his "disastrous affair with Elsa Lanchester," the actress who famously performed the title role in The Bride of Frankenstein.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around the married life of the Monster (played with style and panache by Rhodri Lewis) and his wife (played with grit and more grit by Nicky Harley), a local woman and a bit of a misfit among her peers who tells us she has "beaten up or drunk under the table every man in the village at least once." Sometimes together, sometimes apart they try various enterprises: running a hotel and a restaurant, operating a ski lift, and even appearing in a couple of "cheapie horror films" for old time's sake. They sometimes quarrel as married couples do, and they bear the burden of being childless, a seldom-discussed but significant point that gives the play its one touch of poignancy toward the end.

Throughout the 60-minute production, Lewis and Harley as the Monsterly couple are assisted in their diverse pursuits by Vicky Allen and Chris Robinson, who serve as narrators and numerous other characters who pop in and out with some regularity. Mr. Robinson even gives us a charming rendition of "Puttin' on the Ritz," a nod, of course, to Mel Brooks' film spoof Young Frankenstein.

Much of the hour-long romp of a production, which incorporates some clever visual and sound effects and one particularly precocious piece of furniture, appears as if it were pieced together from a series of improv sessions, just as its title character was pieced together "from the dismembered body parts from a number of corpses." So, sometimes funny, often silly, occasionally surrealistic, it's all rather like a made-up fairy tale, a product of a child's imagination, or the dreamy musings of a group of playful grownups under the influence of weed.

Frankenstein's Monster is Drunk and the Sheep Have all Jumped the Fences
Through January 28, 2023
Big Telly Theatre Company
59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St., New York NY
Tickets online and current performance schedule: