The Axis Theatre is up to it usual mixing of theatre and technology and this time out created a creature called Frankenwright, a fusing of Dr. Frankenstein, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and -- to make things interesting -- Chicago World's Fair serial killer H.H. Holmes.
The production, conceived, written and produced by the theatre, began previews Off-Off-Broadway May 25, opened June 1 and has just extended a week, through June 24.
According to a production description, "three builders of limitless imagination are contained in a single architect's body as he struggles to interpret the tremendous personal losses of his conglomerate life." The play draws on the well-known story of Frankenstein's monster, as well as the murders and fire -- perpetrated by a deranged servant -- which took the life of Wright's wife and destroyed Taliesin, his signature home in Spring Green, WI.
And then there's H.H. Holmes, aka Herman Mudget, whose has the dubious distinction of being the first certified serial killer in U.S. history. He lived a brief 35 years, from 1861 to 1896. Mudget moved to Chicago to be a pharmacist, but quickly became involved in shady real estate and promotional deals under the name of Holmes. One such scheme involved a life-insurance policy on one Ben Pitezel. Pitezel was to fake his death and the two would split the payoff. Instead, Holmes killed Pitezel and three of his children and claimed all the money.
When the police finally caught up with Holmes, his home -- located in a tourist hotel Holmes built to accommodate visitors to the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 -- was discovered to contain concealed staircases, false walls and ceilings, airtight and soundproof rooms, and chutes leading to the basement holding two sheet-iron tanks containing human bones and a large furnace, which may have been used as a crematory. Holmes told a Hearst newspaper he had killed 27 people. He was later executed. Starring in FrankenWright are David Guion, Jim Sterling, Laurie Killmartin, Edgar Oliver and Brian Barnhart. Axis' past production include interpretations of Beckett's Play and Buckner's Woyzeck.
Tickets are $10. Axis is located at One Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village. For information, call (212) 807-9300.
--By Robert Simonson