October 26, 2009



Photo by: Alessandra Mello

October 26, 2009



WE ARE USED TO SEEING A DUMB, INARTICULATE BEAST AS THE FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER – but that is not what Mary Shelley had in mind. No, her vision was of a sensitive, but perhaps horrifying creation that tried to fit into the life of the humans around him. They rebuff the Monster and his loneliness turns to rage as he does some pretty bad things. Like snapping the head off of someone.

Young Dr. Frankenstein gets interested in the works of alchemists. He longs to discover the fabled elixir of life. Later he develops an interest in chemistry. In fact he becomes obsessed of the idea of creating life through artificial means.

So, he assembles a humanoid creature by stitching together pieces of human corpses. Frankenstein succeeds. He manages to create a person. But -- not the person that he had hoped for. It apparently is not handsome enough for him – so he abandons the creature. Other mishaps and cruelty happen to the creature, and he swears revenge.

He kills Frankenstein’s new bride, as well as his best friend, Henry Clerval. “The Creature” was a 1940’s radio play, and it was also done as a podcast in 2006 and 2007. What we get on Thick Theatre stage is a fascinating blend of Theatre and Orson Welles type Radio Drama.

What is unique about this Monster is that he is not really repulsive. He is intelligent. As Dr. Frankenstein says: “He speaks like a man. My God. It evens read Milton”. You notice the putdown. Frankenstein does not give him the courtesy of calling him a man. He refers to “The Creature” as IT throughout the play. No wonder he got upset. Would you like to be called “It” all the time? I’m on the side of the Monster. Get Frankenstein.

James Carpenter plays “The Monster”. And he gives one of the most deeply moving passionate characterizations that I have seen in many years. As he continues his rampage he takes us from one exhilarating scene to another. At times he is very threatening and other times, Carpenter is “Potently Erotic!” Somehow, Carpenter has even managed a new way to talk. Halting, yet fascinating. He is definitely irresistible. It’s a rush!

James Carpenter lights up the stage, just like Dr. Frankenstein gave him the electric spark right from the beginning it continues, never dying down. He dominates the evening.

Also giving Power House performances are Gabe Marin (Frankenstein) and Garth Petal (Captain Walton). Rob Melrose directed with extraordinary flair. And Trevor Allen has brought to the stage a new titanic view of “The Creature” – one that will remain on our minds for a long long time.

This World Premier plays thru November 7, 200 at The Thick House Theatre. 1695 18th Street. Info: 415-402-8081 or http://www.thickhouse.org/

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))

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