EMAV Review: A compelling creature on display at Cockroach Theatre

★★★☆☆ - Satisfying

Urgent concerns of scientific responsibility, parental neglect, cognitive development and the nature of good and evil are embedded within this thrilling and deeply disturbing classic gothic tale presented in a satisfying 3-Star production by Cockroach Theatre Company.

Experiencing the birth and development of Frankenstein's bewildered creature in the intimate setting of the Art Square Theatre is a riveting theatrical experience. Childlike in his innocence but grotesque in form, Frankenstein's bewildered creature is cast out into a hostile universe by his horror-struck maker. Meeting with cruelty wherever he goes, the friendless Creature, increasingly desperate and vengeful, determines to track down his creator and strike a terrifying deal.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, adapted for the stage by Nick Dear, premiered at the National Theatre, London, in February 2011. Michael Billington, the Guardian's theatre critic, wrote:

“Nick Dear's adaptation of Mary Shelley's mythic fable is neither shlock nor satire. Instead it's a humane, intelligent retelling of the original story in which much of the focus is on the plight of the obsessive scientist's sad creation, who becomes his alter ego and his nemesis: it's rather like seeing The Tempest rewritten from Caliban's point of view.”

Indeed, it is The Creature’s compelling viewpoint and stature that carry this production, which worked well in the stronger first act, but at times felt like a solo performance. "Tall as a pine tree," as the text insists, Christopher Brown’s interpretation is captivating and unfaltering throughout -- from his first labored breath at birth, the painfully lumbering attempts to crawl then stand upright, to the ultimate realization that he has successfully mastered human traits… and requires “a mate”.

“Slowly I learnt the ways of humans: how to ruin, how to hate, how to debase, how to humiliate. And at the feet of my master I learnt the highest of human skills, the skill no other creature owns: I finally learnt how to lie.” (The Creature)

Simply and beautifully directed by Mindy Woodhead, the action flows smoothly across time and many seasons, which are handsomely depicted in projections by Spencer Haley. Lighting (by Anna Martin) and costumes (by Mallory Ward) firmly establish the mysterious and supernatural environment set in Europe, around 1818.

Other members of this talented acting ensemble are comfortable covering multiple roles throughout the evening including: Ernie Curcio, Oliver Jones, Myles Lee, Natascha Negro, Heidi Rider, Mack Rudder and Meric Pittman. Gary Lunn is the solid voice of reason and conscience as Monsieur Frankenstein.

I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion to Michael Billington’s review: “The play constantly makes us ask which of the two main characters is the real monster. Is it the disfigured, repulsive Creature or Frankenstein himself with his subordination of love and friendship to the idea of creative perfection? The issue is not so much resolved as left hanging as the two figures memorably depart into an eternal icy wilderness.”

Frankenstein, by Nick Dear (Based on the Novel by Mary Shelley), at Cockroach Theatre Company runs through October 29th at Art Square Theatre, 1025 South First Street #110 Las Vegas, NV 89101.

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