During the summer in Terre Haute, the Crossroads Repertory Theater's offering of four plays follows a somewhat flexible pattern. This year, there is The Sunshine Boys, a comedy; Terre Haute, a drama; Pixies, Kings and Magical Things, the requisite children's show; and the darkest production of the group, a play based on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
An Ambitious Production
Frankenstein's director Chris Berchild seems fond of productions that stretch not only the abilities of small casts where actors must play multiple roles, but also the resources of the modern theater.
Brandon Wentz plays the harried doctor, Drew Hampton the tormented creature, and Carolyn Rodkey the doctor's beloved – by turns dutiful, doubting and determined. Cast in three parts each, Mark Douglas-Jones plays a ship's captain, the doctor's father and his professor, while Julie Dixon is a ship's mate, the doctor's mother, a nurse and the creature's bride.
A 17th Century Monster Meets 2010
Berchild's stage is bare, but the production is rich. Even in its many intimate scenes, Frankenstein never feels like a small play. The backdrop pulses with projected images: the text of the story, laboratory slides, mechanical gizmos, mountain ranges, shadows of the protagonists and more. The effects are enhanced by designer Michael Jackson's complex lighting: harsh whites, dark shadows, varied colors and subtler effects as well.
The sound, by Eli Van Sickel, is also an active component of the piece. Noises of nature mingle are juxtaposed with the weird, mechanical voice of the creature. Costume designer Clair Hummel has been allowed to work freely. By mixing elements from the 1800s with more modern elements, she's created a set of classy and richly appointed costumes.
A Fragmented Legacy
The story – from the beginning of Doctor Frankenstein's quest to his creation of the creature, and finally the tragic end – is told is brief scenes that fall in and out of sequence. The play opens on a ship that's been stranded after it ran into an iceberg, which comes near the end of Mary Shelley's original tale.
Throughout are poignant moments: the doctor succeeding in mastering death, only to cruelly reject his creation, leading to the creation's own cruel revenge. If some of the longer scenes did tend to puzzle as they waxed philosophic, they were more than balanced by the production's other riches.