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Adapted and directed by John Spitzer
“I no longer see the world as it once appeared to me,” observes Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic. “Misery has come home.” That chill you feel is the relevance reverberating throughout Fraudulent Productions’ Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, adapted and directed by company founder John Spitzer. Shelley’s language is the reward of this staging—which will surprise only people who equate Frankenstein’s creation with Boris Karloff and Peter Boyle. The original monster is less lumbering lunkhead than sensitive poet, with the terrible misfortune of being carved from carnage—”the thing from the other side of death.” The creature grapples first with existential crisis, then with exacting revenge on the maker who cursed him with a life of alienation. Straightforward to the point of unimaginative, Fraudulent’s version of Frankenstein depends entirely on huge chunks of Shelley’s text condensed from the novel and recited by its two central characters. Given Shelley’s thrilling eloquence, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the play’s tendency toward the literal, rather than the transcendent, produces its share of plodding moments. And the prerecorded soundtrack veers the evening toward unintended camp. Although a few tricks with shadows nicely evoke the creepiness of German expressionist film, the production values generally reflect a no-frills ethos. But Fraudulent’s actors are up to the challenge of mad romantic storytelling. Ron Woods capably inhabits Frankenstein’s manic arrogance. As his infamously “hideous progeny,” Scott Hicks turns in a fervid—even, at one point, scream-inducing—performance. Jutting of feature and hollow of timbre, Hicks uses his physical attributes to create a creature multidimensional in his fury. The staging might have seemed too stultifying a few weeks ago, but at this moment, a plain voicing of Shelley’s “strange and pitiable story,” with its uncanny overtones of justice, condemnation, destruction, and revenge, answers something of a need. To receive her words in darkness, a message from one age to another, while gathered with other human beings in the shadow of disaster, is a reminder of not only the relevance of art but also the endurance of the wisdom it transmits. —Neda Ulaby