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Theatre Review: Frankenstein



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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, October 24, 2011

Nearly 200 years ago, around the time the steam locomotive was invented, a young woman published a novel of Gothic horror called "Frankenstein." It's about a scientist who secretly creates a living being from purloined body parts, to the amazement a colleague.

Henry: "Whatever your technique, you have opened a special field of surgical study."

Victor: "If one is a sadistic vivisectionist!"

Henry: "He has the power of locomotion. Complete mastery of speech, reasoning, deduction. His parts will not wear out!"

Victor: "A living machine."

Henry: "Yes, if you will."

The novel was written by Mary Shelley, and she was still a teenager when she imagined this story in 1816. But she foresaw ethical dilemmas about laboratory-created life that we still ponder today. Shelley also gave eloquent lines to the intelligent, stitched-together creature, played here by Ed Gyles, who uses stylized acting and creepy makeup to otherworldly effect.

Gyles: "I am one of no kind. An outcast. Wherever I showed myself, people ran in terror and repulsion. I had no friend..."
Much dialog in this show comes right out of the novel, and the language can be florid. The costumes and some music in the show reference the early 1800s as well, which gets this production off to a fascinating start. Alas, the show doesn't always sustain its early promise. Several problems stem from a clumsy script. But the acting is intense, and this rare, old-school "Frankenstein" is worth a look. Nineteenth Century Gothic tales are easy to locate in libraries, but seldom encountered on the stage.
 
"Frankenstein" plays through October 30th  at the Sacramento Theater Company.
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