Rob Reviews "Frankenstein"
The Kalita Humphreys Theater in Dallas could be one of the most underrated venues that I have been privileged enough to see events in. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959, it is one of those places that is tucked away enough in the northwest part of the downtown area that you could drive right by it and not realize that you did. (I can say that because I worked two blocks away from it for the better part of three years and did so EVERY DAY.) Seating just under five hundred people, its intimacy and historic charm is a great place to see a production like the current run of Nick Dear’s adaptation of the classic story of “Frankenstein”.
What is interesting about this particular show is the word “adaptation”. For those that are only familiar with the mainstream version of the story, there is a bit of a learning curve here. All of the story that leads up to Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s successful animation of his monster are not here, and instead begins with the monster coming to life in a multi-media assault on the senses that culminates the previous thirty-five minutes of crescendo-ing ambient noise that is so subwoofer heavy that got my blood pumping a little bit at a time. I do wonder if it was a bit too much, as the impact of the production beginning may not have had the punch that it would have with less of the pre-show boom (pun intended). There were some members of the audience that jumped, but they also may not have been there as long as I and the people in my party were.
In a bold move that requires nothing short of a skilled thespian, there is little to no dialogue in the first twenty-five minutes of the show, as “The Creature” (played masterfully by Kim Fischer) comes to life and has to adjust to his surroundings and simply finding a way to survive. Once his speech patterns manifest themselves after spending time with a blind elderly man (Blake Hackler), but he also flees from that family as well and decides to face his maker to not only understand his origins but also to propose a bargain that forces Victor Frankenstein (Alex Organ) to confront his past, his present, and even his future.
Again, Fisher HAS to carry this entire production, and does so flawlessly. I did see a bit of an issue with the fact that this story takes place all over Europe in the early nineteenth century, but accents that were indigenous to the people in the roles were committed to by some but not others, and even to a certain level of commitment in a couple of cases. There are some great moments between him and Hackler that really helps flesh out (again, pun intended) The Creature’s evolving intellect, and as The Creature’s journey brings him back “home” again, his work with Organ shines as both characters at points see qualities of themselves in the other.
All of this is also accompanied by a very strong technical and well-constructed stage presentation that involves projectors, two large set pieces, and a stage turntable that keeps the action moving in a way that gives the backstage crew ample opportunity to change set pieces easily and without distraction. From the backgrounds projected on both the set pieces and the stage itself to the powerful sound system and a cast that comes to the stage from all sides, this is truly an immersive experience that solidifies the dark and gloomy tone its story dictates.
“Frankenstein” in this atmosphere is absolutely the right choice for it. If the venue were any larger, I am not sure that this presentation would have the power to it that the Humphreys can take it to. This may not be for a large audience due to the fact that the story takes liberties that some may not be used to as well as dealing with some mature content that is not suitable for a younger crowd, but it is worth seeing nonetheless before its run ends there on March 4th.