Wringing new meaning from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is by now an exercise in diminishing returns. What can be said about the modern Prometheus that hasn’t already been dramatized or lampooned by everyone from James Whale to Mel Brooks? The Flying Machine’s new stage adaptation is neither spoof nor shriek-fest; in fact, it’s only loosely based on Shelley’s novel. Discarding narrative fidelity, this visually inventive production is best described as a work of mutant hysterics—a Frankenstein doused by equal parts radiation and laughing gas.
Sporting pointy prosthetic ears and massive buckteeth, the members of the Flying Machine troupe play the perpetually drunk inhabitants of some parallel universe that resembles 19th-century London. Victor Frankenstein (Robert Ross Parker) is the only sober one among them, a biology student whose yen for genetic tinkering leads him to resurrect the corpse of a local bum. As in Shelley’s novel, the Monster, shunned by society, goes on a killing spree. But the play’s tone never fully darkens, wavering in an ethereal tipsiness throughout.
The Flying Machine’s Lecoq-trained actors—rabidly mugging and gesticulating—are the work’s true subjects. (As Victor’s best friend Clerval, Joshua Koehn is his own feverish freak show.) An anti-literary literary adaptation, this Frankenstein makes no apologies for chucking its source material and indulging in the manic energy of its cast.