The Washington Post

Frankenstein’s technical merit and strong acting thrill audience

Pictured: Jay Besch as Victor Frankenstein and Joe Lilek as the Creature. Photo by Marcus De Paula.

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Polina Tamarina, a student at McLean High School , reviews “Frankenstein” performed by Walt Whitman High School , as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

Sometimes, a heartbeat does not have to be ignited by the soft touch of God but can be set ablaze by the strike of lightning and the mechanical whirring of a cacophony of heavy machinery. Heralded by explosions of blood, compressed carbon dioxide, sparking fire paper, and pent up despair, Walt Whitman High School brings its highly entertaining and thrilling rendition of the classic Frankenstein to the stage.

Adapted from the 1823 novel by Mary Shelley, this production by Victor Gialanella also took some influence from classic Hollywood films such as the iconic Frankenstein (1930), featuring Boris Karloff as the Creation. Originally written by Gialanella for the Broadway stage, Frankenstein was produced only once in 1981, after which it was deemed a “very expensive flop.” Victor Gianella’s play tells the story of a protagonist with his same name and his obsession with the recreation of life. However, once Victor Frankenstein actually manages to bring life to a deceased body, he must face the terrifying reality of the God-like position he has placed himself in. He spends his remaining days sheltering what is left of his normal life from the desperation and confusion that has set itself into the heart of his lonely Creation, who says of his love and rage: “if I cannot have one, I will indulge the other.” Walt Whitman High School brings this show (and a little something extra) to life with its production of Frankenstein.

The technical merits of this show truly imbued it with the entertaining Hollywood feel it derived its inspiration from. The show featured a series of beautiful sets (Brian Clarkson, Matt Lewis, Emily Christian), from a vast Victorian living room, complete with a sliding staircase, to a quaint cottage replete with pots, pans, and a stove for cooking soup, all moved soundlessly by the stage crew (James London, Daniel Levine). Lighting (Andrew Elman, Nikolas Allen) was executed flawlessly to create natural lighting effects or bathe the stage in a pool of red light to augment the actors’ emotional catharsis. The sound (Lydia Carroll, Lindsay Worthington, and Alex Allen) was equally effective at projecting booming lightning claps as it was at carrying the voices of a dozen mic-ed actors. Finally, the superb special effects (Brian Clarkson) truly brought this show over the top with an abundance of fog, explosions of compressed CO2, sparking machines, and no dearth of gushing stage blood.

Heading off this fun thriller were The Creature (Joe Lilek) and Victor Frankenstein (Jay Besch). The Creature portrayed an incredibly realistic and often frightening monster as he stumbled about the stage. His impeccable control (or lack thereof) of voice and body created the illusion of a feral, desperate creature while never appearing comical. Frankenstein’s confident and precise physicality and projection befitted his role as the driven, at times borderline obsessive scientist.

The supporting cast featured admirable talent. Elizabeth (Sasha Berger) portrayed a believable and loving wife to Frankenstein with her soft voice and womanly gait. De Lacey’s (Nathan Liu) chemistry with The Creation lent itself to some earnestly heartfelt and often funny interactions. Despite some issues with emotional intensity, the cast created highly tense emotional moments.

Walt Whitman High School's delightfully entertaining rendering of the renowned Frankenstein is sure to please those who enjoy an engrossing storyline with a few splashes of Hollywood camp and a little stage blood thrown in.


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