The dark beauty of longing resonates at Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) with the haunting production of “Frankenstein’s Wake,” playing at The Church on the CPT campus now through January 30, 2016.
This thought-provoking 60-minute piece is a “twisted adaptation” of Mary Shelley’s classic, but the creature is nothing like the monster we envision from the movies.
Brought to life by writer and performer Holly Holsinger, the one-woman performance was co-created and designed by director Raymond Bobgan. This “Frankenstein’s Wake” is a remount of Holsinger and Bobgan’s production which opened off-Broadway in 1997.
“Coming back to the show after 15 years has been really interesting and meaningful. The play and the story of Frankenstein resonates more deeply with me after having more life experience,” says Holsinger.
Vocally supported by the offstage harmonies of Chloe Mlinarcik, Sarah Moore, and Shannon Sharkey, “Frankenstein’s Wake” brings the audience into an intimate space of white sheets and anticipation. The crowd is slowly introduced to a myriad of characters, including Victor Frankenstein, his family, and a mysterious story teller.
“I especially identify with the story teller (the woman). She engages in this story in order to come closer to herself–and just like all of us, repeats her ritual (her daily life) in the pursuit of meaning and completeness,” Holsinger notes.
The story teller is a bit of a mystery, weaving the crowd through the world of a curious scientist whose loves become losses; his passions and pursuits become disappointments.
Holsinger notes, “I relate to the sense of danger and risk in creating, the desire to create, and sometimes wanting to run away from that creation.”
This production starts with the Shelley frame story within Captain Robert Walton’s letters to his sister. Walton is an adventurer looking for the northern most pole of the world. He sets out into the ice only to be passed by a large figure on a sled, which is heading in the other direction. Not long after, he meets and rescues an almost-frozen Victor Frankenstein, who tells his tale.
Victor’s family suffers many devastations over the years, and Victor struggles to deal with the sadness. His inner demons seem to leech over into his creation: the monster.
The monster is a frightening yet fragile character. He struggles with who and what he is in a world that does not want or understand him.
“I feel (especially in a solo performance) the idea that we are all alone in the world (and are searching for wholeness)… the longing for things beyond our reach, and the act of wrestling with our own inner daemons–all very human states.”
The production is enthralling. With a set that is made up of a personable coat rack, some ever-moving tables and well-placed white sheets, there is a feeling of suspense. Items are revealed, places are shifted, and the action moves about the tiny runway-oriented space to create a shadowy pallet of characters, conditions and expectations.
Yet despite all of the longing and struggling, there is a light in the dark, for “what can stop the determined heart, the resolved will of man?” There is a belief and a hope of one day being fulfilled, of knowing one’s place. That is the beautiful journey here.
Creep into the minds and hearts of these characters – “Frankenstein’s Wake” is open to the public at Cleveland Public Theatre in the The Church now through January 30, 2016. Tickets are limited and there is no late seating, so reservations are encouraged. Tickets are $12-$25 and can be reserved by calling 216.631.2727 x501 or visiting www.cptonline.org.