Oklahoma City Theatre Company presents the classic “Frankenstein” in a nod to Halloween and lovers of the classic horror story. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of the novel first published in 1818, appears as a character in the adaptation by Dorothy Louise. Louise is a modern dramatist and, in the current modern vein, writes somewhat impressionistically. “Frankenstein” is a period piece from the early 19th century and is a Gothic Romance. Director Fabrice Conte attempts to represent the mixed styles in this production and his cast certainly fulfills their obligations, but the play comes across as confusing to the audience. The action is not hard to follow as Louise parallels the action of Mary Shelley conceiving the novel and Victor Frankenstein conceiving the creature. Unfortunately, the fragmented modern style mixed with the Gothic traditional does not play well. The costumes are either period or evocative of the period, yet the doctor uses a clearly 20th century manufactured mask and gloves in his operation. This creates a wishy-washy attitude that Mary Shelley, as a character, is unable to surmount.
Overall the actors do an excellent job in the characterizations. Mary Shelley is well played by Keila Lorenc. Paul Mitchell as Victor Frankenstein is a little too melodramatic at times, yet the two of them interact nicely in those scenes where Frankenstein is developing his idea for the scientific feasibility of reanimation and Shelley is developing her idea for the story of creation.
Lance Reese does a superb job as Alphonse Godwin, father to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, and he also is the father for Victor Frankenstein and for Victor’s cousin and intended Elizabeth Lavenza played by Krissy Jones. The role of younger brother William is played by Jackson Gifford. Reese delineates these awkward relationships crisply and his performance enhances the understandability of the other performers. The role of Henry Clerval is taken by Christopher Robinson, Lord Byron is Kevin Logan, Professor Waldman is Rich Bailey and Professor Kremke is played by Conor Yob. These gentlemen do an excellent job of representing the period and the pressures upon Mary Shelley to produce a novel calculated to impress her husband’s cronies.
The role of Justine Moritz, the young woman accused of the heinous crime committed by Frankenstein’s Creature, is played by Megan Nicole Nelson with sensitivity. The role of Caroline, wife of Alphonse, who wastes away as the result of the tragedies visited upon her family, is beautifully done by Lana Wood Henson. Christopher Davis plays Captain Walton, James McCown is a realistic blind man and Conner Maguire is the magistrate. The role of the Creature is excellently done by Joshua Irick. Without the expertise of actors Irick and Reese, the play might have been a great deal more difficult to watch.
While this adaptation has been well received by many audiences it takes strict attention to detail to avoid violating the audience expectations. In this production, Conte’s direction is unequal to overcoming the pitfalls inherent in the approach taken by the “Frankenstein” adaptation author, Louise. Good theatre is meant to be entertaining and often thought provoking; perplexing is never the intent of a good dramatist or a good director.
“Frankenstein” is collaboration between Oklahoma City Theatre Company and St. Gregory’s University. “Frankenstein” will be playing through October 27th at the City Space Theatre in the lower level of the Civic Center Music Hall in downtown Oklahoma City. For ticket information visit the Oklahoma City Theatre Company website at www.okctc.org or call 405-297-2264.