(photo courtesy : Jordan Kubat)
Written by Daniella Litvak
It’s October, and with October comes opportunities to wear costumes, eat pumpkin-flavored treats, and enjoy the thrill of a horror story. What better way to start the month of frightful delights than with a real classic —the monster story all other monster stories aspire to —Frankenstein! As is the case with most classic tales, there are numerous versions of Frankenstein for everyone to experience, but the iteration currently running is unlikely to be one you’ve seen before. It’s an original production that is so new it did not even exist six months prior to its debut.
Probably the most obvious feature setting CSUF’s play apart from other Frankenstein stories is that it takes a cue from Man of La Mancha and incorporates a framing device wherein the author of the original novel, in this case Mary Shelly (Olivia Kridle), is in the midst of writing the story that will become her literary masterpiece. I am a sucker for meta fiction and plays within plays, so I liked this addition, especially for the brief moment at the end when author and character are able to lock eyes on one another.
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself —let me rewind back to the beginning. In 19th century Europe Victor Frankenstein (Anthony Ayala) is a university student who is quite full of himself and has a blasphemous theory that he believes will enable him to create life. Of course, there is more to Victor than his arrogance. He is genuinely devoted to his family and friends, so when personal tragedy strikes it drives him to put his theory to the test, and he succeeds. Victor has brought the Creature (Casey Bowen) —a man constructed from the parts of many corpses stitched together and jolted with electricity —to life.
CSUF’s Frankenstein is good at conveying that Frankenstein is just as tragic as any Greek or Shakespearian play. It is not all tears though. There are some good one-liners that provide laughs, and there are some scenes that will make you go “Aww,” because of the sudden influx of adorableness.
The cast turn in fine performances. Rightfully, the scene stealers are Ayala and Bowen as Frankenstein and the Creature respectively. Both are equally amazing in their roles. When one of them is on stage, things automatically heat up. When their characters are forced to confront one another, it’s electrifying. Ayala is great at conveying Victor’s inner madness. Meanwhile Bowen can imbue the Creature with a lot of nuance, enabling him to deliver a terrific performance all the way through.
The set design is equally impressive. I loved how the platform design was both abstract and atmospheric. The projection effects added a lot of beauty and surprise to the stage. Not only is the set design well suited to the story, it actively makes it a better show.
Whether you’ve never seen or have seen some variation of Frankenstein many times before, it is worth the trip to CSUF to experience this particular version of Frankenstein.
September 29 – 0ctober 15, 2017