Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus" by Green T Productions at the Historic Mounds Theatre

Finding myself with a free Saturday night due to the rescheduling of Leslie Odom, Jr.'s concert at Orchestra Hall, I decided to check out Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus. I'd never seen a show by Green T Productions, never been to the Historic Mounds Theatre, and the show is 90 minutes no intermission (my favorite thing) - perfect for a spontaneous Saturday night trip to the theater! Mounds Theatre is a perfect venue for this creepy tale (my friend told me it's haunted), and Green T has created an ambitious and innovative new telling of this 200-year old tale. While I didn't always get everything that was going on, it certainly held my interest and created some memorable moments.

A 13-person ensemble tells us the story of Dr. Frankenstein and her (yes, her, the doctor is a woman in this retelling) monster, using movement, physical theater, puppets, narration, and drumming (I'm not sure what Japanese Taiko drumming has to do with this Gothic European story, but sure, why not). A sea captain (Mickaylee Schaughnessy) on the way to the North Pole finds Dr. Frankenstein floating in the ocean, rescues her, and begins to read from her journal. From there we watch the good doctor in her childhood, studies, and experiments as she works to save humankind from death itself. But as we all know, her experiments go awry, and she learns there are things worse than death.

It's a little unclear why there are three monsters - an impressive giant of a puppet (designed by Loren Vork), the familiar large lumbering man (Matthew Kessen), and a petite woman who comes off as an Edward Scissorhands type of monster just wanting to be loved (Natalie Rae Wass) - and two doctors - the woman at the center of our story (Heidi Berg) and a man acting in a lab up in the corner (Matt Kelly). But adapter/director Kathy Welch warns in the program that it's not a linear story, and it's interesting to watch the stories play out.

The stage in the restored movie theater contains some pretty impressive set elements that make good use of the vertical space (designed by Rick Coleman and Kathy Welch). On either side of the stage is tall scaffolding with ladders and steps that the ensemble climbs on, one side the framework for the monster puppet, the other Dr. Frankenstein's elevated lab. The cast is dressed in layers of red and sepia tones, with rips held together with large black stitching, as is our monster (costume design by Lisa Conley).

Having missed this year's Twin Cities Horror Fest (I don't do horror), I feel like I've gotten a taste of it here. This Frankenstein is creepy and perplexing, sad and disturbing, with some interesting elements of design and movement. Continuing through November 26 at the Historic Mounds Theatre in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul.