30 October 2009

The Creature

The Thick House's production of The Creature in San Francisco isn't quite the best Frankenstein ever — Mel Brooks' film may actually qualify for that honor — but it's certainly the best adaptation of Mary Shelly's novel you could hope to see. Originally conceived as radio play, the production has the characters speak almost entirely in quotations from the book, successfully conveying the original's uncanny mix of gothic horror, gothic romance, religious-philosophical allegory, and foundational proto-science-fiction. In a break from the novel's structure of a memoir within a memoir within a memoir, the play interleaves Victor's telling of the tale with the monster's, revealing numerous clever juxtapositions which cast both tellings as unreliable.

That may sound too heady to be entertaining, but the play is thoroughly gripping, due largely to James Carpenter's performance as the monster and smart direction that gets a lot of life out of simple staging. Standing atop the table where he was born whenever he confronts his creator, you see a monster eight feet tall. And the next time I read the novel, I am sure that I will hear the monster speak with Carpenter's voice.

Playing this weekend and next. Joe Bob says check it out.

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