A ‘Frankenstein’ with many moving parts
Dr. Frankenstein’s creature was created out of multiple bodies. And so it seems appropriate for the six members of the Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater production of “Frankenstein” to come together in various combinations to create Mary Shelley’s Creature onstage.
David R. Gammons, the Elliot Norton Award-winning director who is staging Nick Dear’s adaptation of “Frankenstein” Oct. 4-Nov. 4 at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, says he was swept away by the deep moral questions Shelley raised in her novella that still resonate 200 years later.
“Frankenstein has become so embedded in our literary and popular culture, from the grunting monster with the flat head, bolt in neck, and green skin to pink-tinged Franken Berry cereal, we forget her central idea of the Creature as ‘the other,’ ” says Gammons.
What makes Dear’s adaptation unique, says Gammons, is that the story is told from the perspective of the Creature. Dear’s adaptation was a hit at London’s National Theatre in 2011, when Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternated the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature from one performance to the next.
“The opening sequences in the play are so cinematic,” he says. “The novel is written in the form of letters and then from Dr. Frankenstein’s telling of the tale from memory. Some of the most exciting moments in the adaptation were just a few sentences in the book.”
Using some choral speaking and movement-based characterization, Gammons says the actors come together to create different shapes that represent the Creature at various times and in various emotional states. There is always one actor who is the leader, he explains, but by creating a continuous point of contact the actors can shift shapes, from a Creature made up of two to as many as six.
“Sometimes the combination of actors allows us to find surprising moments, like when the Creature visits Elizabeth [Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancée] on her wedding night, four people make up the Creature in a ring around her,” Gammons says. “She is both trapped and embraced.”
The ensemble is composed of a diverse group, including Boston theater favorites John Kuntz, Debra Wise, Remo Airaldi, Ashley Risteen, Omar Robinson, and David Keohane.
“We start with the youngest actor playing the youngest version of the Creature,” says Gammons, “but then definitions start to blend as male, female, black, white all take a lead in providing the Creature’s voice.”
At the heart of the story, says Gammons, is the relationship between Frankenstein and the Creature he brings to life. As the Creature learns to navigate the world, he is rejected by everyone he meets, including his maker. The notion of “other,” the outsider who can never find his proper place, became the central launch point for the production’s exploration, Gammons says.
“I hope this production will shake up people’s perceptions about ‘Frankenstein,’ ” he says. “Cristina Todesco has created a bold, futuristic tower of steel and glass for the set, as far from the misty 19th-century scene you might expect. Jeff Adelberg’s lighting and David Wilson’s sonic landscape are abstract and suggestive. We’re asking the audience to participate with their imaginations, to lean in and collaborate with us.”
Tori Scott kicks off Afterglow
Boston Conservatory graduate and popular New York cabaret artist Tori Scott opens the fourth season of Afterglow @ Oberon, Oct. 11. Called “the Bette Midler of the New Millennium” by Provincetown Magazine, her “Tori Scott is #Thirsty” is a collection of songs made famous by Aretha Franklin, Judy Garland, Miley Cyrus, and others.
“Tori Scott is the first of our six artists booked for this year’s Afterglow program, most of whom are making their Boston/Cambridge debuts,” says Quinn Cox, artistic director of the series.
“I’m so happy to be able to create a home for these artists here and introduce Boston area audiences to this talent,” he says. “John Cameron Mitchell [‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’] and I launched the Afterglow Festival [in Provincetown] to provide artists with an opportunity to develop new work, or collaborate with new people after the busy summer season. It’s exciting to see audiences in Provincetown and Cambridge come experience what’s new in performance art.”
The mix of Afterglow @ Oberon performances ranges from the trash bag performance art of Taja Lindley’s “The Bag Lady Manifesta” (Nov. 15), Philadelphia-based Bearded Ladies Cabaret with the Mr. Rogers-inspired “Adults: You Can Never Go Down the Drain” (March 14), and glam Dutch performer Sven Ratzke with “Amsterdam to Mars” (April 18).
Cox says interest from artists and audiences has led to an effort to develop more new work. He is currently working with the Boston-based “What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?,” a cabaret-performance group whose music ranges from New Orleans soul to Tin Pan Alley, with the hope of touring a new work throughout New England next year.
Tickets for “Tori Scott is #Thirsty” are $25. Call 617-547-8300 or go to www.americanrepertorytheater.org/AfterglowAtOberon.
Presented by Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater at Central Square Theater, Cambridge, through Nov. 4. Tickets $16-$60, 617-576-9278, www.centralsquaretheater.org