From the novel by Mary Shelley, NextStop Theatre Company presents Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, directed by Evan Hoffmann. While the show does have some scary moments, I won’t be remembering it as such. This isn’t Hollywood’s caricature of a clumsy creature blundering his way through a weak plot; this is Frankenstein as Shelley wrote it: deep, eloquent, and full of poignant themes and dialogue. The production is done with such drama and grace that the first word that comes to my mind when I think about it is beautiful. Hauntingly, tragically beautiful.
Scenic Designer Sarah Beth Hall uses lengths of tattered, aged muslin to frame the stage. Since NextStop is a black box theater, it’s an intimate space, and the artistically draped cloth literally takes away the stage — the audience is fully immersed. Lighting Designer Helen Garcia-Alton and Composer/Sound Designer Jordan Friend steal the show when it comes to technical creativity. The shadow work created by Garcia-Alton’s side lighting sets the tone and delivers breathtaking moments. This, combined with Friend’s unnerving organ music and eerie sound effects, creates an atmosphere that I won’t soon forget. The effect of these imaginative and creative technical elements is intense.
The first few moments show Victor Frankenstein’s Creature (Jared H. Graham) writhing in pain and confusion as he awakens for the first time. It’s hard to watch, made even more so when Frankenstein (Stephen Kime) finds himself horrified and frightened by his own creation, and unceremoniously casts him out into the world to fend for himself.
The timid Creature attempts human connection several times, only to be rejected in increasingly cruel ways. He eventually meets a blind man (Ronald Ward as De Lacey) who shows him kindness and teaches him how to read and write. The Creature’s potential is built here — we see an intelligent and civilized character developing. However, when De Lacey’s son and daughter-in-law meet the Creature and try to attack him as they shriek with terror, the damage is done.
The Creature is (understandably) upset with his situation and resents humanity in general, particularly his creator, whom he sets out to confront. The resulting relationship is fascinating, as both face their own ambitions and consequences. Jared H. Graham and Stephen Kime give visceral, unnerving performances that catch your attention and hold onto it. Gigi Cammaroto gives a vulnerable, tragic performance as Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth Lavenza, and Bess Kaye excels in a number of smaller supportive roles. The acting overall is moving, poignant, and memorable, which is acclaim not only for the actors’ talent but for Evan Hoffmann’s direction, which must have been expert.
NextStop Theatre Company’s production of Frankenstein is indeed scary, but not in the way you would expect. Far more frightening than traditional jump-scares and excessive gore, it’s an unsettling dive into the human condition that will stay with you for a while. I greatly enjoyed myself and highly recommend a showing!
Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
Frankenstein plays through November 13, 2022, at NextStop Theatre Company, located at 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA. Tickets ($45 including fee) are available online or by calling the box office at 703-481-5930.
Advisory: Frankenstein is for mature audiences only.
The program for Frankenstein is online here.
COVID Safety: Masks are required for all patrons inside the building unless actively eating or drinking. If a patron does not have a mask, disposable masks will be available for any and all guests upon request. Patrons who do not comply with these policies will not be admitted or asked to leave the theater. NextStop’s complete COVID-19 Health & Safety Measures are here.