Redd Tale Theatre Company has a knack for taking well-worn stories and delivering them with a fresh perspective. Currently during their “summer of creation” they are exploring the themes of what it means to be human and how our need to connect on a deeper level drives all living creatures. By currently pairing a well-known and time-honored old fashioned horror story – Frankenstein – with a newly written modern sci-fi piece – Gabriel – this talented ensemble is virtually flipping a coin for us and showing two sides of a very complex issue during one ambitious night of theatre.
The first act begins long ago, with Frankenstein With Mary Shelley (adapted by Virginia Bartholomew / directed and edited by Will Le Vasseur). As the title indicates, this is as much Mary Shelley’s chronicle of how the story came to possess her as it is the story of the Doctor and his Creature. Virginia Bartholomew not only adapted the original text but interprets all three characters brilliantly. She moves fluidly from young writer to consumed scientist, to unfortunate monster – imbuing each with the same spirit of determination that drove them to complete their task. Bartholomew is a gifted actress who commands the stage and holds you in the palm of her hand; she is mesmerizing, dynamic and radiant.
By illuminating and juxtaposing Mary Shelley’s journey as she creates “Frankenstein” the story, Bartholomew (as playwright) examines the way Shelley herself took a lifeless form and lovingly worked upon it until it rose … sparked by the electricity of her desire to create not merely new life, but new heights to which the reader’s imagination could ascend.
The second act vaults us into the future – or at least a parallel present – with Gabriel written by Le Vasseur and directed by Lynn Kenny. In this sci-fi tale of creation we meet Henry (Le Vasseur), a wealthy British geneticist who, it appears, has time and resources to dabble in much the same work that Doctor Frankenstein did – minus the grave robbing. When we come upon Henry he’s nervously awaiting his friends Pierce (James Stewart) and Susan (Cameran Hebb) – fellow scientists and dear friends. He is about to introduce them to his own creation: Gabriel.
Gabriel is not your father’s test tube baby. In fact, he’s no baby … after only six months he has formed into a fully grown man and his skills include being brilliant, being able to link to others in order to speak telepathically, and getting drunk far faster than the average human. Since Gabriel doesn’t actually speak he is played by two actors: Michael Komala voices Gabriel remotely in dulcet tones while Michael Wetherbee moves about the stage and stares intently.
What worked so well in Gabriel was the exploration of the theme of Frankenstein taken to a “what if” level. What if the Doctor had been successful in creating a being that could be accepted by society? What if the creator could find a way to not only connect with the new creature, but celebrate its existence and delight in its actualization? What if the bond between the two was mutual and fulfilling, rather than horrific and filled with despair?
By presenting this as the through-line which ties both ends together, Frankenstein and Gabriel amount to a thoughtful, entertaining, engaging night of theatre.
~~~Frankenstein With Mary Shelley
by Virginia Bartholomew, edited/directed by Will Le Vasseur Gabriel
by Will Le Vasseur, directed by Lynn Kenny . Nicu’s Spoon Theatre 38 West 38th Street (4th floor) New York, NY 10018 . Thursday, August 04, 2011 through Saturday, August 27, 2011 Tickets are $15 Click Here to purchase tickets