By Dana Lacy
Frankenstein on stage as Toronto’s Canadian Stage’s last 2009-2010 show in the Bluma
You all know the story of Frankenstein. What if Dr. Seuss wrote it?
I’m one of those people who can’t stand watching movie trailers for fear of ruining the experience. Same goes with plays: when I read that Frankenstein was lurching into town, I booked my ticket and avidly avoided all other information about the play. This time, it was especially important: the story of a mad genius who creates life has been told countless times in countless ways, and I liked that there’d still be an element of surprise, even if the story was one I’d heard before. It was worth the wait.
The first surprise (spoiler alert!): this version of Frankenstein is a musical. When I heard that first note hit the air, I worried that this might become yet another corny over-the-top yet underwhelming attempt at making a literary work marketable. My second surprise? The play didn’t suffer the usual curse of the musical adaptation: the songs weren’t overly groan-inducing, and the story didn’t entirely depend on the tired and often forced sentimental narrative of a gal finding her guy and living happily ever after (although there was plenty of undead romance, thank you Mary Shelley, you were 200 years ahead of your time).
In other words – have you bought your tickets yet? You should. The Edmonton Sun, published in the home city of production company Catalyst Theatre, aptly calls it a “monsterpiece.”
The play’s inspiration needs no introduction. After a series of tragedies, young Victor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with finding the meaning of life – and hopes to eradicate death while he’s at it. Watch him grow from a shy, nervous young student who loves his mother into a fidgety and brilliant scientist that’s rumoured to borrow the parts he needs from still-living people.
The narration was provided by a group of hilarious-but-creepy citizens of Dr. Frankenstein’s hometown, which gave the classic story a poetic twist a la that other famous doctor (in fact, most of the narration either rhymed or had symphonic cadence). I think the good doctor inspired more than the script: the set and the costumes all had a stylistic touch of Seuss mania, mixed with some Tim Burtonesque darkness and just a hint of Dexter’s ominous plastic.
I’ll admit that I was smitten by Doc Frank, played by Andrew Kushnir. I loved watching his character interact with others, and his neurotic physical comedy made it very easy to believe that this young scientist was very much in over his head. Who couldn’t relate to that?
Photo credit: The cast of Frankenstein by Jackson Hinton