Jes Gonzales’ adaptation of Frankenstein premiered Friday at Resurrection Theatre, and it was excellent.
This version of Mary Shelley’s horror story puts a fresh face and an unexpected twist on the classic man-playing-god story with high production values and a great cast.
With a simple and effective set, handsome costumes and good lighting, the technical aspects of this show, along with great direction from Adrienne Sher, provided a solid foundation for the actors.
Nicholas Gailbreath plays Victor Frankenstein, the radical scientist. Gailbreath comes off as pretentious and arrogant — exactly what the character calls for. But, when terrible things start happening to him, it’s hard to find much sympathy, as he was in serious need of being taken down a peg or two. Still, Gailbreath handles the pivotal role well, managing reams of dialogue and dropping hint after hint about the story’s end without giving it all away.
Opposite Gailbreath, Don Hayden plays the explorer Robert Walton. He is a bystander through the story, but remains one of the most dynamic characters in the play. It is Walton’s single-mindedness and ambitiousness that spurs Frankenstein to tell his story. Playwright Gonzales uses the character well, allowing him to question Frankenstein on his motives and emotions directly. This back-and-forth slows the play’s overall pace a bit, but it gives both characters added depth. Hayden’s portrayal of Walton is as solid as the writing. He is believable, and though he must have heard this story a hundred times in rehearsal, his reactions come off as genuine.
Drew Struck’s portrayal of The Creature is good. His physicality is excellent, and his rage is frightening. Perfect for the Creature.
The show’s only real technical issue, however, is tied up in The Creature’s voice. Voice-overs are used when the Creature is offstage. The reverberating sound effect is great for fright-factor, but is altogether unintelligible. Even careful listening brought no success in understanding. Still, this is no fault of Struck’s.
Elizabeth Holzman plays Elizabeth Lavenze, Frankenstein’s love interest. Her simple-seeming character turns out to be quite multifaceted. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give things away, but know that Elizabeth is more interesting than she first seems.
The remainder of the supporting cast is strong. Henry Clerval, played by Robert Stalls, is Frankenstein’s best friend. Stalls’ mostly humorous portrayal makes me wish he were my best friend, too. Sabrina Fiora plays Justine Moritz, the Frankenstein family’s servant. Her character is heartbreaking, and more so at the end of the play. Alphonse Frankenstein, Victor’s father, is played by Marcus Daniel. He is consistent throughout, and believable in moments of both fury and grief.
The Hermit, played by Mark Garbe, was a highlight of the supporting cast. He balanced some humor intrinsic to his role with a lot of sincerity, and made me wish he had a bit more stage time.
In short, this brand new show is great. Gonzales’ writing and plot twists are excellent, and the actors handle their end of the bargain very well. I’m looking forward to seeing what Gonzales comes up with next.
Frankenstein plays through Oct. 31. More information and tickets are available HERE.