PINEDALE – Mary Shelley’s classic novel “Frankenstein” came to life at the Sheppard Auditorium on Nov. 5 in an exciting new production by the nationally renowned Aquila Theatre Company. The auditorium was nearly filled to capacity as residents came out on a Monday night to enjoy a live theatre treat sponsored by the Pinedale Fine Arts Council.
“We had a fantastic turnout for a Monday,” Kari DeWitt, Pinedale Fine Arts Council executive director, said. “It was great to see so many high school students in the audience. It was truly a remarkable performance.”
Aquila Theatre’s production follows the plot of Shelley’s early 19th-century masterpiece, and many of Shelley’s original words fill the actor’s lines. But the play unfolds in a 21st-century setting, with a few of the characters updated or added.
Victor Frankenstein, the troubled but brilliant university student, tells his story of the creature he has created and brought to life out of cadaver parts to a Dr. Walton, a female scientist working on genetic experiments in the Arctic.
The first act centers on the murder of Frankenstein’s young brother, William. Justine Moritz, a girl adopted by the Frankensteins, is blamed for the murder when a pocket watch given to William by his mother shows up in her pocket. The audience witnesses her trial, imprisonment and death in the gallows.
But William’s true murderer is not revealed until later in the play, after Frankenstein brings his creation to life. Frankenstein is horrified by the creature anonymously referred to as the “Monster,” and abandons his creation.
The monster is left to navigate life in modern Switzerland all on its own. The creature finds a family and begins to learn to speak and understand human nature from them. But when he reveals himself to people, he is shunned. An old blind man is the only person to offer Frankenstein’s creation some comfort before the others shoot at the creature as if he is a horrible predator.
Completely isolated and alone in the world, the creature begs Frankenstein to engineer a companion for him. When Frankenstein refuses, the creature turns into a vengeful monster, killing off Frankenstein’s loved ones.
Frankenstein pursues his creation across the globe until they end up at Dr. Walton’s lab in the Arctic. The production adds a new twist to Shelley’s work at the end. A team of scientists in biohazard suits asks Dr. Walton if they should “terminate” or “modify” Frankenstein’s creature as the final lights go down.
Since Aquila Theatre’s production is touring across the country, their set design relies on fantastic lighting effects on theatre drapes to create eerie locations that shift through time. The only set pieces are a lab stool and a simple gurney that transforms from the monster’s birthplace into a table or bed. Modern sound effects and costumes are used effectively to make the audience forget that the play takes place in Switzerland, not down the street.
The troupe of professionally-trained actors brought many characters to life, often playing multiple roles.
James Donovan played Victor Frankenstein and Percy Shelley. Lily Donovan played Elizabeth Lavenza, Claire Clairemont and Agatha. Jack Kleff played Alphonse Frankenstein, John Polidori and Mr. DeLacey. Robert Madeley was featured as the “Monster.” Eleanor McLoughlin played Justine Moritz, Mary Shelley and Agatha DeLacey. Caroline Moroney played Dr. Walton and a barrister. Elliott Ross played Henry Clerval, Lord Byron and Felix DeLacey.