Dr. Frankenstein's Magical Creature Does Not Come to Life

Mary Shelley Moves to Park Slope

Let’s give Dr. Frankenstein the benefit of the doubt. While stitching those mismatched corpse pieces together, he was thinking about unlocking life’s secrets—not about creating a sad, lurchy, patchwork zombie. The intentions of Rabbit Hole Ensemble in staging Stanton Wood’s ill-conceived new adaptation of the Frankenstein story are probably equally noble: unlocking theatrical magic by combining a bunch of snazzy techniques. But, like the creature itself, Edward Elefterion’s production is a jumble of parts adding up to an unhappy mess.

The anatomy of a theatrical monster:

1. Cross-gender casting: OK, why not? But the company just flips some parts (female monster, Dr. Victoria Frankenstein) without ever telling us why that’s revelatory.

No creature comforts
Zoran Jelenic
No creature comforts

2. Kabuki (narrow stage, repetitive gong-striking, some streamer effects). Sure, but again: Why? Does the formalized quality of the well-known monster myth suggest the stylized methods of Kabuki? Or did Rabbit Hole just think it sounded good?

3. Multiple actors playing the monster (mostly: one narrates, while another acts the scenes). This leads to exhausting redundancy. First, we hear long, flowery, Gothic-sounding descriptions of what happened. Then we see it played out in little tableaux. Frankenstein is nice, but twice?

4. Melodrama: Spiffy notion, matching the sensationalism of the story with staring eyes and heightened poses (Frankenstein plays were a big hit on the 19th-century stage). But the troupe isn’t sure whether they’re doing it for real or for camp.

5. Endless tacky vocalizing when wind sound effects are called for. The room sounded like an emphysema ward.

There’s one revision I just can’t excuse, though: Transporting Frankenstein’s home to the woods of Vermont. There’s nothing creepy about Vermont.

 
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1 comments
Lori
Lori

Dear Mr. Gallagher-Ross,Before I started to concentrate more on scholarly pursuits in academics, I did a lot of work as a theatre critic. I trained under some well-respected, if not some of the most highly regarded theatre critics in the country, some of which contributed to giving the Voice a reputation for being a periodical worth reading, due to its informed insight into the cultural fabric of the "underground" NYC theatre scene, often highlighting the merits of up and coming companies. I am also still a proud member of the ATCA and the LMDA.

This all being said, I don't know you. I don't know if you were assigned this show for very little compensation (as we often are), and/or forced to see it at such a time where you weren't able to catch dinner beforehand or... but I am not sure if you are aware of this but arts criticism is a dying art, and yes I just said "art." For I was taught, or more accurately grilled, to put artistry into the words used to describe the ephemeral wonders and blunders of theatre; you however literally have made a list of the things that irritated you about this show. Treating theatre, of any kind, so haphazardly is not only unfair to the show, company, actors, directors, playwright you reviewed, but compromises the integrity of the art form of theater criticism, where each and every word should be infused with such precise meaning that you can literally evoke the milieu of the ephemeral event you experienced, either good or bad. You intentionally belittle the efforts of an emerging, burgeoning company that may not have put on the best theatre event you have ever seen, but certainly deserves more than what you have given them here.

You have insulted all of us who have trained laboriously to be not just objective, insightful, and dramaturgicaly dedicated and well educated about all aspects of theatre craft, but also artful when we write about theatre, a dying art, along with, I am not sure if you have been informed, theatre criticism itself. So no, a list is not enough, and I as a member of the theatre critic community, I am offended you thought it was. For you underscore the reason why theatre critics are becoming obsolete, and the art of true theatre criticism is being devalued. No wonder arts critics are being the first to be laid from periodicals.

If you are going to review a show, take your job seriously. Because you are not just "hurting" the show you are reviewing but those of us that have dedicated a great deal of our lives to trying to prove the merits of keeping theatre, and in conjunction theatre criticism, breathing, alive, and hopefully thriving.

Lori

 

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