I had always wanted to adapt Mary Shelley's novel utilizing my recollections of the many and varied screen re-creations of her work, with an eye towards honoring the point she was trying to make, while retaining the entertainment value of the story. Given the expectations of theatre audience members weaned on horror flicks, this was a bit of a challenge.
The first production of the script was staged in an enormous outdoor amphitheatre at Mount Holyoke College, as part of the Summer Theatre at Mount Holyoke's 1997 season. It was a hoot and a success. By week's end, throngs of citizens packed the theatre, and with a bay-able moon overlooking the stage, the ambiance was perfect.
The story follows Shelley's rather closely, with obvious side-trips to keep the plot dancing and the characters evolving. Victor Frankenstein's doomed experiment wreaks physical havoc on the populace and emotional havoc on his family and friends. Victor's creature is the sum of his parts, as it were--a tortured soul, a mangled human contrivance--and as he wends his way to his stunning demise, the audience somehow manages to empathize with his plight, though the horror of his actions is never minimized. Like the character in the novel, the Creature develops a vocabulary, and tries desperately to assimilate. When he fails, he demands companionship, threatening Frankenstein and his family if he is not accommodated. The result of this threat leads to a spectacular, memorable conclusion. In photo, Bill Stewart and Phil Kilbourne, from the Summer Theatre at Mount Holyoke College production.
Victor Frankenstein - mid-thirties
Elizabeth - late twenties, his fiancee
Alphonse - mature, Victor's father
Clerval - mid-thirties, Victor's close friend
William - teens, Victor's step brother
Justine - twenties, a family servant
Magistrate - forties, a trusted and competent police official
The Creature - Frankenstein's creation
Gilda - twenties, Frankenstein's raw, rather spicy lab assistant
Delacey - sixties, the blind man who teaches the Creature
Lucy - adolescent, the blind man's rambunctious granddaughter
Claus - twenties, Gilda's conniving boy friend
First Townsman and Second Townsman - ageless drunks who provide comic relief and memorably move the plot, one of them losing his heart to the Creature, as it were.
Deidrich - twenties, Alphonse's young servant
Burgomeister - thirties, forties, officer of the law who battles the Creature
Villagers - depending on the size of your company--go to it!
Some roles cannot be doubled. Some roles can double as Villagers. It is suggested that WILLIAM double as DEIDRICH and CLAUS double as BURGOMEISTER.
There are five, count 'em, five playing areas, though in most cases all can be accommodated on the same stage. One area is the drawing room of the Frankenstein Manor in Geneva, Switzerland, circa 1820. Another area is Victor's crude laboratory somewhere in Ingoldstadt, Germany. The third principal playing area is the small yard and garden surrounding the Delacey hovel on the road between Geneva and Ingoldstadt. Another area used occasionally is an opening in the forest between the aforementioned towns. There are also a couple of brief scenes in a tavern in Ingoldstadt. These last two areas require a minimum of space and light. When the production was staged at Mount Holyoke and again later at Radford University, the sets were unit sets, and there was no need for in-show scene changes.
'It says something about this story's appeal, and writer/director Jack Neary's genius, that we can know so much about what will happen and yet sit mesmerized, waiting for the horror to widen in the darkness. Neary does more than adapt the story Mary Shelley wrote as a precocious if morbid teenager in 1818. He re-imagines its settings and language, teasing out its conundrums of spirituality and existence. Neary keeps it interesting, and keeps the horror horrid, by lightening the play's many quick scenes (there are 40-odd short ones, movie-style) with humor, gallows and otherwise.' Larry Parnass, Daily Hampshire Gazette
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