Spend an evening at the Black Box Theatre in Indian Head and discover what it's like to feel compassion for a creature who kills. How can something so wicked stir us to sympathy? The answer is in the NobleHeart Repertory Company's production of "Frankenstein."
In his play based on the book by Mary Shelley, author Victor Gialanella offers us a look into the mind and life of Victor Frankenstein, whose desire to recreate life leads him down a path of death. Much of the story is told through voiceovers from Frankenstein's journal as he details his life's work. Through his entries, he chronicles the action we witness on stage, from his creature's awakening to his demise. It is the scenes in between that intentionally leave us with conflicted emotions.
This production offered an all-around solid experience. From the technical aspects to the acting, and everything in between, director Bill Graves gave audiences a solid evening of good theater.
As the creature, Alex Zavistovich turned in a top-notch performance. He brought a child-like innocence to the role that was made all the more compelling by the creature's transformation into a lonely, grotesque being. Zavistovich carefully walked us through each transition as his character began to understand man's contempt for him and learned to despise the world into which he awakened. It would be easy to just write off the creature as a monster out to wreak havoc on man, but with careful nuances of emotion and expression, Zavistovich made him sympathetic and helped us identify with the monster he became.
Craig Hower's performance as Victor Frankenstein proved to be one of the few disappointments of the evening. Frankenstein must come across as nearly possessed by his desire to bring the creature to life, and Hower did not project the energy to make us feel that he was truly consumed by his goal.
The supporting cast was strong. Michael Mortensen and Bridget Devlin Burke turned in compelling performances, and James D. Watson's portrayal of the creature's blind friend, DeLacey, was particularly fine. He was quite believable as being blind and elderly, and he made it clear why the creature felt a kinship that could lead him to kill after the murder of his friend. Young Darby Knowlan did a nice job as Victor's little sister, Mina.
The lighting design by Duane Mann was very good, particularly the special effects in the laboratory. It was unfortunate that the lightning appeared to flash outside the audience instead of right above it, but it was a small detraction given the strength of the rest of the design. The set had multiple pieces (no small feat in a theater this size) and worked well despite numerous complicated set changes.
If there weren't enough reasons to go see this production, the makeup alone is worth the trip. The creature's scars very clearly progressed from fresh to hardened, and their puckered appearance was something to behold. It was fascinating to watch the evolution take place almost before our eyes.
It's tough to make a staged fight appear realistic, but Hower's choreography was well done. While the choreography was good, it did lead to one detraction that stood out significantly. Twice a knife was used, and neither time did we see blood on the blade afterward. As trivial as it sounds, it did take away from what were otherwise believable struggles.
With original music by Watson, Frankenstein will keep you engrossed.
"Frankenstein" runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 6. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students. For reservations, visit www.indianheadblackbox.org or call 800-494-8497. The Black Box Theatre is at 4185 Indian Head Hwy. in Indian Head.