The very name Frankenstein often conjures images of Hollywood horror films and nightmarish scenarios. A mad scientist using electricity to reanimate a jigsaw puzzle of human parts from the vault of death is a common motif that comes to mind. Honestly, many of the assumptions one might make are fairly true aspects of Mary Shelley’s novel, but Robert Kauzlaric centers his rendition of resurrection around a very troubled female protagonist, Victoria (played by Molly Margulies), who spends much of the performance in a state of melancholy and uncertainty. The story focuses on her arduous relationships with people, especially her family. She is portrayed as an emotionally unstable individual, prone to obsessions and fixations with minute details of the sentimental kind, but relatively blind to the larger themes in the world around her.
…I can honestly say this Frankenstein performance is proof Mary Shelley’s work continues to stir the mind and soul even in modern times.
It is implied Victoria is obsessed with playing God, after the untimely death of her father (played by Steven Howison), but I found many aspects of this adapted story are implied. The emphasis on simplifying the drama and spotlighting dialogue is more critical in this play than the acutely existential concepts that made Shelly’s novel a true classic. Essentially, one has to wait until the last acts of the show to get to the “meat” of the story.
Kauzlaric accentuates Victoria’s deeply personal account, which, unfortunately, vaguely resembles the treasured novel. Frankenstein is a tortured soul, afflicted by grief and motivated to leap the bounds of science to bring something dead back to life, only to reject the ultimate creation. However, this play skips over the science part, fast forwards over the paradox of being deprived of reason (such as madness) and being the embodiment of reason (like a scientist). The play eventually comes to the plateau of inquiries that mirrors the story we’ve come to know: What is life? What does it mean to be a human being? Who is actually the monster in this tale? For those that know the novel very well (I often cite it as my all-time favorite), Kauzlaric’s adaptation is much like Victor Frankenstein himself: trying to bring pieces of something else to life. I was neither disappointed nor thrilled with this play. Perhaps there are too many aspects of this story that gnaw at how one defines life that will always draw attention to it.
This performance of Frankenstein, directed by Melissa LaMartina at Cohesion Theatre in Baltimore, deserves some praise for originality in their stage ambiance. Scenic designer Sierra Ho and lighting designer Daniel Weissglass complement each other nicely in creating a dark, humble (yet jagged) set with contrast and chaos. I thought the scenes could have used some more dramatic music to raise the anticipation level, however.
Costume designers Maria Bissex, Jess Rassp and Chris Reuther made the lovely monster quite eerie. The glowing heart was definitely a nice touch. The ensemble of actors had some good chemistry. Molly Margulies as Victoria was excellent. She molded herself into this character and had some very moving moments. Kim Le’s portrayal as Justine was also noteworthy. I especially liked the moments leading up to the hanging scene. Cynthian Miller (Caroline), Caitlin Rife (Helena), Jamil Johnson (Erich), and Hannah Fogler (William) did a nice job as supporting actors as well.
Overall, I give a lot of credit to Cohesion Theatre for their ambitions and humility. As a literary person at heart, I can honestly say this Frankenstein performance is proof Mary Shelley’s work continues to stir the mind and soul even in modern times. For true fans of this novel, many thanks for daring to bring the story to life on stage.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Frankenstein is playing now until March 10, 2019. For more ticket and performance information, visit the Cohesion Theatre website by clicking here.