We're all familiar with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein story -- a scientist decides to play God and create life. The story has been adapted for the stage and screen numerous times (and in many different ways).
It's been played as melodrama (the classic Boris Karloff film), as comedy (Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), as high drama (Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as an experimental comment on society (The Living Theatre's Frankenstein) and, of course, as camp in Richard O'Brien's musical The Rocky Horror Show.
Philadelphia's Independent Eye production of Frankenstein, adapted by Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller, mixes physical comedy with horror to reflect Victor Frankenstein's flight from the natural cycle of birth and death. How do they do it? The love scene is swarmed by mosquitoes, the Monster's encounter with a blind man is played out with dolls, and the doctor animates his dead friend as a ventriloquist's dummy.
But, the Philadelphia staging is not only attempting to enhance the comedy in the tale: for example, a journey into the Arctic becomes a sweeping waltz through a dreamscape of what might have been.
Co-writer/director Conrad Bishop feels the production utilizes the comedy to intensify the story, rather than parodying it, "It's a way of surprising us into new ways of seeing the familiar. There's a close connection between farce and horror - states that are beyond our control, a tunnel-vision obsession that sends a Macbeth or Victor Frankenstein skidding to hell on a banana peel." Frankenstein is a collaboration between Independent Eye and Bethlehem (PA)'s Touchstone Theatre with the three-actor ensemble all resident actors at the Touchstone. The Bishop-Fuller script was developed at the Independent Eye's Genesis Ensemble.
Frankenstein runs April 2-19, at Old City Stage Works, for reservations or more information please call (215) 925-2838.
-- By Sean McGrath