One of my all-time favorite novels is Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. To me, the novel brings up questions about what makes us human and what makes us monstrous. In my favorite section of the novel, “The Creature” lives in a wood shed attached to a cottage in the forest. A poor family with a blind father lives in the cottage, and “The Creature” observes them for several years, learning to speak, read, and relate to humans. He approaches the family to befriend them and is rejected based on his hideous appearance. That rejection, along with several others throughout the narrative drive “The Creature” to murder Victor Frankenstein’s younger brother and threaten his other family members and friends.
Mary Shelley wrote the novel at the young age of just 18 and had it published two years later. She conceived the novel during a summer where she, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont and John Polidori stayed in Geneva Switzerland. Byron they have a ghost story contest, and it was there that Mary came up with the story that ultimately became Frankenstein.
Right now at McCarter Theatre Center, the story of Frankenstein is coming to life on stage. Lookingglass Theatre Company from Chicago has brought this bold new production to Princeton. The play starts with that ghost story contest in Geneva and weaves the Frankenstein story with events from Mary Shelley’s own life. The show also features some incredible circus acrobatics, special effects, and all sorts of surprises all done in a theatre-in-the-round set up. It really is one of the best pieces of theater I have seen lately, and raises the same questions as the novel.
If you want to see it, you better hurry: the show ends November 3.
Jesse North and I also produced this feature for JerseyArts.com about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, featuring interviews with writer/director David Catlin and actors Walter Briggs and Cordelia Dewdney.