Janie Geiser and Susan Simpson have created a monster. A cute one. They’ve distilled Mary Shelley’s novel, via Erik Ehn’s economic adaptation, into a 70-minute toy-theater spectacle. In a season that’s offered three other Frankenstein variations (Broadway musical, Off-Broadway musical, clown show), one doesn’t necessarily expect the fourth to present new revelations or insight into the book. And Frankenstein (Mortal Toys) does not—though it does provide unusually gorgeous settings and puppets.
Inside the toy-theater proscenium, Simpson, Geiser, and their cadre of puppeteers conjure images of the Alps, the lab, and even the frozen Arctic, playing delightfully with depth and perspective. Two actors supply voices while a musician underscores adroitly, but it’s quite possible to forget the story and characters altogether when concentrating on the prettiness of the images. Horror, pity, disgust, terror—these emotions don’t intrude. Indeed, little is felt save a pleasant wonder at Geiser and Simpson’s staging. If only poor Dr. Frankenstein had concerned himself with such charming experiments.