Most people know the Mary Shelley story. The young Dr. Frankenstein breathes life into the dead through a scientific experiment. The resulting creature ends up wreaking havoc on his search for acceptance and even love.
This search is the focus of Swine Palace’s production of Victor Gialanella’s stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 best-selling novel, “Frankenstein.”
The show opens Friday, Oct. 3, in the Claude L. Shaver Theatre. Opening night will be preceded by pay-what-you-can and preview performances on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I think Victor Gialanella’s play is an interesting version of the story,” says George Judy, Swine Palace’s artistic director. “His play uses ideas about the things we’re doing in science.”
In an age of artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and bioterrorism, “Frankenstein” raises timely questions about what it means to be human.
“It’s a case where even though we have the ability to do something, should we do it?” Tim Moriarty says.
He’s dressed in the 19th century garb that his character, Victor Frankenstein, wears outside the lab.
But there will be a lab.
“The set will be equipped with a lab and lab equipment,” Judy says. “It’s going to have all the elements of ‘Frankenstein.’ ”
Shelley began writing her novel at age 18 after a weekend retreat in Switzerland with Lord Byron and other popular writers of the day.
Discussion turned to the supernatural one night, when Byron proposed that each write a ghost story. Shelley had a waking nightmare later in the evening that developed into the story of Victor Frankenstein and his hideous progeny.
It’s also considered one of the first novels in the science fiction genre.
Swine Palace’s timing for “Frankenstein” is perfect with Halloween on the horizon. But there’s another reason this production is being staged.
“We wanted to do something that could connect with the schools,” Judy says. “ ‘Frankenstein’ is a literary piece that’s widely taught in high schools, and it’s something the schools can come and see.”
Audiences of all ages immediately will recognize Brendan Averett’s character as “the Creature.”
Averett is an Equity actor based in New York. He stands well over 6 feet tall, and a rollercoaster of emotions replaces his lack of dialogue.
“He’s big physically and open emotionally,” Averett says. “He learns quickly, but too quickly for his emotional life. There are unseen moments on stage that I hear things, and the depth of it makes it so different from the 1930s film.”
That depth plays on the dynamic between a creature and his creator.
“This story takes on themes of the need for others and being alone,” Averett continues. “Dr. Frankenstein is the Creature’s creator, the man who made him. The Creature has no idea who he is, and Victor is the key to his past. It’s a child-parent relationship in his mind. It’s also a God relationship, because Victor is responsible for the Creature in the same way that God is responsible for creating man.”
Meanwhile, Victor is wrestling with his own moral dilemma. His obsessive drive has alienated the loved one in his life, Elizabeth Lavenza. Amanda Clark plays the devoted fiancee wh o refuses to leave his side.
“Dr. Frankenstein later comes face to face with his responsibility when he faces the Creature and realizes that he’s not a creature but a man, a kindred brother,” Moriarty says. “I would call him a genius with a flaw.”
And Clark, who also is dressed in her 19th century costume, sees Elizabeth as Victor’s emotional rock.
“She represents unconditional love,” Clark says. “Victor doesn’t tell her anything about the Creature until the night before their wedding, yet she still loves him. Even when it’s hard for her, she stands by him.”
Moriarty labels the story a romantic thriller.
“And it gives us a lot to think about,” he says.
- CAST: Amar Atkinson, Henry Clerval; Brendan Averett, Creature; Addie Barnhart, Frau Mueller; Amanda Clark, Elizabeth Lavenza; Hannah Dougharty, Ensemble; Carter Dean, Ensemble; Emery Gischler, William; Margaret Lauve, Ensemble; Greg Leute, Alphonse Frankenstein; Maggie McGurn, Justine; Tony Medlin, De Lacey; Tim Moriarty, Victor Frankenstein; Joe Morris, Hans Metz; Colt Niedhardt, Lionel Mueller; Addie Prochaska, William; Joshua Rodriguez, Ensemble; Spencer Smith, Peter Schmidt.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: George Judy, director; Jason Bayle, assistant director; Ken Ellis, set design; Brandon McWilliams, costume design; Adam Parboosingh, lighting design; Eun Jin Cho, sound design; Matthew Duvall, properties design; James Murphy, technical direction; Elena Hansen, production stage manager.