Two stark spotlights spin towards the audience as the room plunges into darkness. Lights flash on an almost bare white stage. There are six white panels, 3 flanking each side of the stage, and four thin metal poles stretching out from the blank canvas. Whispers from trees echo around the space, creating an ethereal soundscape, and a man with decaying but blindingly pale skin writhes on the ground and slowly stumbles to his feet. He makes his way to the top level of the stage, grunting and moaning out in existential dread, just as an array of thin needles of water rain down from the backdrop. Naked, the man steps into the storm, a glowing crack rippling across the wall changing colors across his face, both a mountainscape and a heartbeat. As the water hits his bare bones, he lets out a bellowing roar, arching and contorting his body in a moment of pure carnal discovery. To be alive…
A Product of Social Forces
One of three productions of Mary Shelley’s classic novel coming to life in the Chicago theatre scene this Fall, Remy Buppo Theatre Company’s take has a twist. Just like the original production of Nick Dear’s adaptation, the actors playing The Creature and Victor Frankenstein change roles every night (for reference, this viewer saw Nick Sandys as The Creature and Greg Matthew Anderson as Victor). The effect of this reversal can be seen even in seeing the show once, as there were several telling moments where Victor would slip into the mannerisms of his creation. The relationship between the two characters is the core of Dear’s take on the tale, so those interested in philosophical explorations into creating in one’s own image, loving or scorning oneself for being different, or the machinations of deontological ethics in a world created by a watchmaker God, you’ll be swimming in theory. Although these discussions and subject matter were presented, to this writer, in a manner that highlighted the misogyny and patriarchy underlying the God-creation allegory, the plot moves along quickly enough that one doesn’t have to engage with such flaws, if seen at all.
Remy Bumppo Pulls Out All Technical Stops
The symphony of visual and aural elements Frankenstein presents is truly stunning, and had this artist satisfyingly shocked for the duration of the production. The costume design by Kristy Leigh Hall on the Creature is a feat, covering the actor’s entire body, and bald head, with scars, stitching, peeling flesh, and sunken eyes, all a ghostly white. The progression of the set, designed by Joe Schermoly, throughout the show is calculated, and coordinated beautifully with the concise lighting created by Mike Durst. There’s a particularly wicked moment with snow falling outside a warm cabin in the mountains that you won’t want to miss, purely out of visual appreciation. All of this partnered with Christopher Kriz’s haunting sounds and supernatural music with choral drones lays out a smorgasbord of daring art to lap up.
The show goes on quite the journey, not just around Europe as the monster chases his creator, but as the Creature discovers the nature of living, and of humanity itself. Sandys physical acting in the first forty minutes or so has little to no dialogue, only the occasional incomprehensible vocal gesture. The audience gets to see him birthed from an embryonic sac, learn to roll onto all fours, then stand, and take his first steps, all with painstaking effort. This same frustration and angst with living at all plagues the monster throughout the story, and was the most engaging to the young reviewer pondering his own purpose and futility in the audience. Despite what this reviewer sees as script flaws, and some inconsistent energy throughout, this production of Frankenstein will appeal to anyone looking for breathtakingly daring aesthetic applied to a classic novel.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Greg Matthew Anderson
Zachary Scott Fewkes
Dana M. Nestrick
Kristy Leigh Hall
1229 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
Thru Saturday, November 17, 2018
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm
Saturday Nov. 3rd and Thursday Nov. 8th at 2:30 pm