Theater archives

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


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.

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.