Frankenstein – Playing with Fire at the Guthrie Theater
This year Mary Shelley’s iconic masterpiece, Frankenstein celebrates its 200th anniversary. The story is a tale that many know which involves a Doctor who pushes the boundaries of life and science to reanimate a dead body and thus creating “the creature.” This new script does what many retellings do and is that is taking a well-known story and turning it on its side. This new retelling does just that but still manages to pay homage to the original foundation that it is based off. It makes us think of our full potential
Field’s version begins at the end of the lives of both the Creature and Frankenstein. They are at the top of the world in the arctic after Frankenstein hunts down the Creature for years. The final showdown between the two involves plenty of cat and mouse both physical and mentally as they wonder who will be the first to die. As they debate and test each other’s wit, scenes from their past played out in front of them as they remember their former selves and how they ended up where they now stand.
I am someone who doesn’t know the full and entire story of Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature. I know the basic story of him creating a monster, however that is it. This is where the plot fails audiences by assuming many already know the full story. Throughout the show something was still missing. Despite they had major scenes from the past acted out in front of us, it still felt incomplete. While these past scenes play out, I couldn’t help but wonder “Is this a scene from Mary Shelley’s novel? Is this new to the story?”
Within the first few minutes of the opening act, excitement was in the air as I wondered where the story would go. However, as the first half continued, it got more and more dense and the lows seemed to drag on. For me, the highest of the highs were great but they were sadly watered down with dense and dialogue. There is certainly something there that keeps my curiosity running with the script and that is I’m extremely interested in reading the original to better understand plot points in this script. It’s a classic tale of a retelling that now will bring more curiosity about the original.
While the plot wasn’t for me, the acting was extraordinary by all. I can appreciate the craftsmanship that these actors have put together especially with how much rich material there is on the subject matter and plot itself. Elijah Alexander plays the Creature and really pushes the boundaries on how far and how much he has learned since being reanimated. He brings a new air to the role, that many know as just a babbling monster, by being inquisitive of human nature and always questioning man and morality. Zachary Fine plays opposite of him in these scenes as the older Dr. Frankenstein. Fine is fantastic as he hunts the Creature with a purpose to kill however he begins to question his actions on whether he has the right to take life away, despite being the one to originally give it to the Creature.
Robert Dorfman keeps the air light with a surprisingly comedic performance as Krempe, Victor’s professor. Dorfman, who reminds me of Leslie Jordan’s character from Will and Grace, really did keep the show moving at a nice pace with his comedic bits and quips. The moments he had also broke up the dense dialogue of the show. Amelia Pedlow plays Victor’s cousin and wife, Elizabeth, and plays the role with a sense of delicateness. Jason Rojas plays the younger version of the Creature, who is named “Adam” in the script, an ode to Adam and Eve. Roja also keeps the excitement and thrilling nature of the show alive as you always wonder what he is going to do next after being brought back to life. He’s unpredictable with his actions and motions which keeps it electrifying.
Ryan Colbert gives a truly thought-provoking performance as the younger Dr. Frankenstein, who in the show goes by Viktor. Colbert really is the highlight of the show for me. His portrayal is strong at first as Victor is destined to learn as much as he can and push the boundaries on science and essentially playing God. As he beings to learn what he can and will accomplish he begins obsessed with his work slowly losing his sense of sanity. His performance was genius and I’d love to see a full length show with him as this character.
Frankenstein – Playing with Fire is confusing at times and almost expects the audience to go in already knowing the story. The idea of it is fascinating to me and the ethical repercussions it brings up is enough to write countless of research articles on. Human nature and what people truly desire is at the root of this show. One thing is for sure after seeing this production and that is my desire to read the original…well…IT IS ALIVE.
Frankenstein – Playing with Fire by Barbara Field plays at the Guthrie now through Oct. 27.