Frankenstein

Disclaimer:  The BITR Sister who reviewed this show is affiliated with Cohesion Theatre Company in some way.  However, the Sister was not involved in the development of the production and did not have knowledge of any aspects of the show prior to seeing it as a patron.  You’ve been informed.

The story of Frankenstein is a classic.  Originally written by Mary Wollsonecraft Shelley in the 1800s, Cohesion Theatre Company’s production of Frankenstein was thoughtfully adapted by playwright Robert Kauzlaric.  Most know the general outline of the story, but in this adaptation a few key changes were made.  For one, the main character is a woman named Victoria Frankenstein (Molly Marguiles) and not Victor as in the original.  Moving on.  Depressed after the death of her father Alphonse (Steven Howison), Victoria escapes to the University to bury herself in her studies and attempts to bring her father back from the grave.  She leaves behind her grief stricken mother Caroline (Cynthia Miller), little brother William (Hannah Fogler), adopted sister Justine (Kim Le), best friend Helena (Caitlin Rife) and boyfriend Erich (Jamil Johnson).  As expected, Victoria’s monster is not what she planned it to be and it begs her to be its companion or else it will take the most precious things away from her.  Ohhhh snap!  Frankenstein’s monster is alive!

Victoria was a difficult part in this play as she is an emotionally complex character.  An actress that is able to access her full range of emotions and be in control of her body was needed to play this role; Molly Marguiles was the only choice.  I’ve seen Ms. Marguiles in other roles around town and she is always fully engaged in her character.  I felt her heartache and confusion as Victoria.  I could not keep my eyes off of her.  She gave an air of lightness to an otherwise heavy piece and she flowed from each scene effortlessly.  If Victoria was the head of the monster, Caroline was the heart.  Cynthia Miller as Caroline was stately.  I could see the pain and sorrow she felt on her face even when she wasn’t speaking.  Her emotions were beautifully framed and her sadness was elegant.  That’s a weird thing to say, but just go with it okay?  Cause it’s a compliment.  Hannah Folger (William) was the best little boy!  William was sweet and added a sense of wonder and joy to the play.  Hannah Fogler had nice characterizations and made me smile with her whimsy.

Frankenstein had a stacked technical crew.  Music and sound designer Queen Wolf created sounds that were ominous, dark, and ethereal.  They struck the perfect note which punctuated the action and emotions on stage.  I love when sounds are present, yet seem to disappear while you are watching the show.  Like it’s a piece of fabric in a quilt that was always there but you never realized it until you paid attention.  The set was whimsical yet specific thanks to scenic designer Sierra Ho.  The gray monotone set was made of wooden planks and light fabric and allowed the actors to use multiple layers.  The gray color was a perfect backdrop to the lighting.  OMG the lighting was fucking awesome!  Daniel Weissglass did a phenomenal job using color, light and shadow in just the right way.  It set the mood and supported the action beautifully.  The production’s tone had a cool, dark under current and the lighting helped to anchor that feeling of despair.

Oh I can’t forget about the puppet!  The puppet was the centerpiece of the show.  Jess Rassp is a puppet master.  I was filled with awe when the puppet came alive before my eyes.  The 7 foot puppet, manipulated by Steven Howison, was simply magnificent.  And props to Steven Howison for emoting while operating the puppet.  His bombing voice bounced off the walls of the fallout shelter theater space.  What a bad ass!  The puppet was eerily beautiful, grotesque and delicate.  I was struck by all the working elements.  I won’t spoil the experience by overly describing what it looked like or how it was operated, but be prepared to be amazed.  What a wonderful addition to the story.  Go see the puppet that Jess Rassp and Chris Reuther built!

Frankenstein had a strong directorial hand and it was a magical experience.  Specific choices, well cast actors, costuming, lighting and staging.  It all had a purpose and every aspect was carefully considered and effortlessly connected.  It was refreshing to see this kind of bold, visionary thought behind each element of the production.  Melissa LaMartina, you outdid yourself.  Overall this play was some heavy emo shit, but it glided through in a tight 90 mins.  Any faster the themes would not have settled into the psyche, and any slower it would have felt too drawn out and depressing.  The play itself was so intriguing.  I was moved.  I hadn’t read Frankenstein in AP English class, but I was able to follow the original tale and pick up on the nuances playwright Robert Kauzlaric added.  It was cool to see a play with a confident yet flawed female antagonist.  The play had overlapping dialogue, despair, layers of emotion, and a structure that had a lovely flow to it.  Frankenstein is a poetic monster story and I am there for it!

Grief, depression and death are multi-dimensional, complex emotions.  You can’t pin them down.  Everyone experiences them differently.  We often hide them ourselves and from others.  This production made me ask questions: Who is in control?  Who was the monster?  Was it Victoria’s inner self?  Was the monster real?  A play that makes you wonder is worth the price of admission.  And lucky you!  Cohesion’s pay structure this season is pay what you can!  We can’t escape ourselves.  We can’t escape our feelings of loss and grief.  We have to face them or they will destroy us and the people we love.  The text states that “we see in all things what we chose to see.”  Are you ready to face yourself and what you created?  This play made me pay attention.  Frankenstein is a creative delight for the eyes, ears and heart.

Should I stay or should I go:  GO. SEE. THIS. PLAY. NOW.  Baltimore is a town with a big creative heart and this production of Frankenstein proves to me how fucking talented the Charm City art world is.  Like I didn’t already know.  Frankenstein is a gripping and honest play that has something for everyone.  Come for the strong acting and interesting play, stay for the puppet and dazzling technical elements. Cohesion Theater Company continues to delivery impactful theater that pushes thematic and artistic boundaries.  If you see nothing else this month, see Cohesion Theatre Company’s production of Frankenstein.  Did I mention how amazing the puppet is?  I don’t even like puppets and I can’t stop talking about the Frankenstein puppet!  Cohesion, keep doing cool AF theater.  It looks good on you.  (Z)

Running time: 90 mins with no intermission.  Now through March 10th.

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