Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus
Center House Theatre (Seattle Center), 216-0833, book-it.org. $24–$38. 7:30 p.m. Wed.–Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends March 9.
Going into Book-It’s new staging of Mary Shelley’s monster tale, I expected it either to be sublime or subpar—and probably the latter. What more could possibly be done with the source material? Didn’t that new movie, I, Frankenstein, just bomb? Yet this production perches on perfection.
From Scooby-Doo on down, pop culture has had its way with Shelley’s 1818 novel, which among other themes explores the notion of dualism—that people are neither inherently good nor evil, but possess a capacity for both. As director and adaptor, David Quicksall treats his two leads accordingly: Instead of being some arrogant mad scientist, Victor Frankenstein (Connor Toms) is sweetly suffering and scared stiff. Played by Jim Hamerlinck, Frankenstein’s creation—simply listed in the playbill as “?”—compels our compassion, even while cowing his creator. In other words, expect no stereotypes here.
Quicksall also manages to preserve Shelley’s supporting characters—mostly ignored in the various movie versions—to delightful effect. From blocking to performance, his cast of 10 deftly elicits both humor and horror. (I’ll single out Ian Bond, playing Victor’s doomed friend Henry Clerval, for his balance between commanding a stage yet not stealing its focus.) The show’s design elements blend like chocolate and peanut butter. Supremely stylized yet stunningly simple, Andrew D. Smith’s lighting and Andrea Bryn Bush’s set effortlessly employ the Romantic motifs of light and dark, while Nathan Wade’s sound design agreeably accentuates that contrast.
Though I still have a soft spot for 1985’s The Bride, with Sting creating Jennifer Beals as his perfect woman, this is the best adaptation of a familiar classic that I’ve seen in years.