The Algonquin College Theatre grads opened their second show of three to a full house. Following up their swim into the waters of absurdism with 7 Stories last month, they now delve into the land of mad scientists and the existentialist questions about life and humanity with Frankenstein, the classic Mary Shelley story about a man’s obsession with creating new life and his struggling to deal with what his success ultimately means.
Should you see it?
Somewhere in the Victorian age, therabouts the birth of electricity, a scientist experiments with more than just lighting up a room. Victor Von Frankentein’s goal, his obsession, is to use electricity to create life itself. When he succeeds, the result proves more heinous than any nightmare could have prepared him for. He births in his lab a Creature so hideous and offensive to human senses that he casts it aside that very night. What follows raises questions of duty to and responsibility for our creations, nature versus nurture, and simple human compassion.
The story is timeless, the script is good, and the production design is so high they needed to raise the ceiling (metaphorically).
The steampunk-inspired set is the epitome of mad scientist interior design with hanging light bulbs and countless cables strung from the ceiling, cavernous columns on raised platforms, and keenly detailed gadgets and equipment. The set is partnered with very effective lighting, designed by David Magladry, and one of the richest and most symbiotic soundscapes I can recall experiencing courtesy of Jeremy Piamonte and Steven Lafond. The costumes, for the most part, seem fitting. From the lovey dresses of Frankenstein’s fiancee, Elizabeth, to his own blood-caked apron. But it’s in the Creature himself, where it’s hard to tell where costuming ends and make-up begins, that Vanessa Imeson (costumes) and Amanda Logan (make-up) deserve special credit.
The cast of Frankenstein run between ‘eh’ and having real star power. Benoit Lavalle’s Captain Walton, a man headed for the North Pole on the fuel of his own obsession, didn’t convey the gravitas of a man obsessed or a man who regularly had to keep control of a crew of roughneck seamen while pursuing it. Jesse Lalonde’s hug-and lift of Elizabeth early in the show made it impossible to believe his turn as Frankenstein’s supposedly kid brother. Kara-Lyne Weaver’s Elizabeth does a good job bringing a nice bit of humanity to Frankenstein, even though, despite the kissing scenes, I never really felt their chemistry or knew why they were together. Same can be said of Bruno Serner’s Fritz, who did all right as Frankie’s conscience even though I never really felt their kinship or devotion matched the scale of what they were undertaking.
I felt it was important to go into detail there because, yes, there are tiny things one could point to, in many areas of the production, but none of them come close to overpowering what is, under the direction of Zachary Council, among the best shows I’ve seen this year.
Matthew Gillen is very believable as Frank’s anti-science, pro-life, love and whatever suits him best friend, Henry. Gillen’s Henry, along with Beckie Lindsay’s delightful Louise (one of Frank’s servants) also provided some wonderful levity and laughs in an otherwise heavy script.
And Frankenstein. Garrett Brink captures Frank’s obsession and his conflicted torture with aplomb. He’s only outshone by Creature, played by Evan Gilmore. Gilmore is a pitiable unfortunate soul, begging compassion, love and acceptance of you from the opening montage depicting the first days of his wretched life – which has some pretty cool staging to boot – and through to the end of the show. In particular, it’s the scenes between Frank and Creature that make this show. The interconnection between their lives and their tortured plights makes for gripping drama in the hands of these actors, resulting in scenes as captivating as I’ve seen on even professional stages.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know your thoughts? Did Frankenstein come to life for you? What did you think of the set and sound design? Join the discussion and let me know in the comments below.
Frankenstein’s first two shows sold out so get your tickets soon if you don’t want to miss out. The show runs until March 22nd at Algonquin College and you can find more details in our show article.