There is a very good reason why some stories are told under the cover of darkness – hidden from the world and everything that takes place during the mundane trivialities of the day. Because some stories aren’t meant for the daylight. Only a blanket of blackest night will give some words that extra visceral thrill, only the the anonymity of the night can help create that tension that starts racing along every nerve ending – only darkness will give some stories the ability to make your heart race . . . will draw your lips together – will make you believe that the words are true.
The Tragic Story of Doctor Frankenstein (written by Stanton Wood and directed by Edward Elefterion) is just one of those stories – a tell-it-in-the-dark story: so when it starts in the dark, crackling terrifyingly to life before remaining partially hidden, a little chill of anticipation runs up your spine. You may not know what to expect from this story – but your racing heart is telling you all you need to know about how it will end.
Elefterion frames this work organically – the stage is bare and everything that is necessary to tell the tale is crafted and created from the people who creep about the stage. The lighting design is reminiscent of campfire ghost stories – strong lights beaming hotly and casting shadows – carving faces into ghoulish masks. The sound design is equally unprocessed – hisses of train breaks, whispers, crackles, and every sound both necessary and nightmarish are the product of two very talented women - Lauren Cook and Nikki Dillon who also act as props when necessary.
Beyond the staging, there’s another reason this Tragic Story pulls you in. It is completely unexpected – though not without precedent. For the Doctor Frankenstein is Doctor Victoria Frankenstein (Elise Knight) – a brilliant , beautiful, tortured doctor who lives in a world she creates from her mind, with mostly herself for company. So much so that she’s splintered herself off – and a second Victoria (Jocelyn O’Neil) exists to aid when necessary, to take over when necessary . . . to help support the enormity of the weight that’s on this fair doctor’s shoulders. After all . . . she did manage to reanimate a lovely dead body – only to then find herself horrified by her own actions. She’s got to be able to share that burden with someone – even if the other person is just an offshoot of her insanity. In effect, this trio becomes a strange family unto itself – Victorias 1 and 2, with the “Child” (Emily Hartford) acting as the completion of this unholy trinity.
Emily Hartford as this reanimated corpse had me frightened beyond belief. For much of the beginning of the play she does little besides lurk and lunge, and – without that wall of protection (a movie or TV screen) the immediacy of her terrifying presences was a little too much to bear. A few times the lights went out completely and I was grateful that I’d chose to sit in the last row up against the wall – knowing that she couldn’t pop up behind me. Slowly, however, this monster/child’s terrifying persona goes from merely a grunting, gasping, groping thing to an eloquent being who explains her torment to her creator in heartbreaking detail. She’s almost more frightening when she can put words to the barren emptiness she’s doomed to exist in.
Arthur Aulisi is the lone male of this production – he plays Zachary (Victoria’s long-suffering sweetheart who doesn’t fare well by the end) in addition to the other male characters of the play. He is particularly touching as Victoria’s father who stands by the sidelines and suffers as he watches his daughter disintegrate.
Ultimately, however, this play belongs to the women – the two tragic sides of Victoria who create a shattered tableau and become more seamless as the play moves on – and their unfortunate creation, the unwanted Child who Victoria can neither liberate nor obliterate. She has started this – and she must see it through till the tragic end.
~~~The Tragic Story of Doctor Frankenstein Written by Stanton Wood Directed by Edward Elefterion
Through November 13, 2010 8:00 PM .
Brooklyn Arts Exchange 421 Fifth Avenue, 3rd Fl Brooklyn, NY Tickets are $15.00 – $18.00 Click here to purchase