An empathy for outcasts and youthful viewings of old black-and-white Frankenstein films prompted playwright Trevor Allen to sculpt Mary Shelley’s 1818 gothic novel into a fresh remix of the pathos and nondenominational monstrosity of man- and mutant-kind. The monster (played by the masterful James Carpenter) tells his tale of abandonment in haunting juxtaposition to that of his creator, a brilliant but weak man (Gabriel Marin) whose experiments doom him to fruitless wanderings through the Arctic tundra.
Ignoring the standard green makeup and neck bolts beloved of costume designers a la The Munsters, the production relies on Carpenter’s fluent body language (curled fingers and loose limbs) and lighting design to throw his contours into harsh relief. While it explores the face of evil (Cliffs Notes hint: it’s not always deformed), the pain of isolation, the yearning for a tribe, and the dangers of futzing haphazardly with science – at it’s core, The Creature is the story of a man and his eight-foot tall son. And how easily love can twist into something darker if not properly nourished. Grown from a radio hour-style podcast into a deftly-produced world premiere, Allen’s script does full justice to Shelley’s redemptive tale. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to find her ghost occupying the one empty seat in the house, futilely wishing she had access to all those Frankenstein royalties to donate to Black Box Theatre for another production. The Creature is an elegant reminder of what lurks in the hearts of man – and why you should never stand in the way of your child’s marriage if you know what’s good for you.
Plays through November 7 at the Thick House,1695 18th St. (415) 401-8081 or visit thickhouse.org.