- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

A variation on “Frankenstein” from the monster’s point of view, rather like John Gardner’s novel “Grendel,” only with neck bolts. Sounds intriguing, especially in the hands of master storyteller Jon Spelman and gifted director Nick Olcott.

The resulting, dismal work shows that Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s creation is sopping with low self-esteem and feelings that it’s not easy being green. He longs so for the company of his peers — or anyone who can look upon him and not run screaming into the night — that you’re tempted to take him by the hand, lead him across the bog to the land of Shrek and inquire if Mrs. Shrek knows of any like-minded ogresses looking for a fix up.

Gloomy, introspective and about as entertaining as cleaning out the lint trap, Jon Spelman’s take on Mary Shelley’s 1816 gothic novel eliminates all the terror and the shivery moments and replaces them with a dull harangue on man’s inhumanity to unsightly creatures.

This just in: We treat the gruesome differently from the gorgeous. Thanks for clearing that up, Round House.

Mr. Spelman’s work concentrates on the finer, inner workings of the Creature rather than his hideous visage. Presented in the form of a 19th century “literary evening” with violin accompaniment by Jesse Terrill, “Frankenstein” reveals that its eponymous experiment gone awry is just a lonely only, searching the villages and hamlets for love and acceptance. Unlike other versions of the Creature, Mr. Spelman’s monster does not utter unearthly moans and groans. Instead, he is an articulate chap, improving his mind with Plutarch and Milton.

While this makes a good case for home schooling and self-motivation, as theater it is like reading “Paradise Lost” after a big turkey dinner — dozing off seems inevitable. For a storyteller who normally conjures vivid and far-reaching images with his words, Mr. Spelman’s “Frankenstein” is curiously static and inert. Perhaps this can be attributed to endless scenes centered on dolls grouped around a small, folded screen. The dolls represent the modest, loving family the Creature spies on through a crack in the wall for months on end. The Creature may be infatuated with them, but Mr. Spelman fails to convey to the audience why they are so fascinating.

“Frankenstein” is a high-minded work meant to convey that monsters are not born, but made — created by society’s cruelty and grand indifference. Yet, by eliminating the creepy aspects of Mary Shelley’s novel in favor of the touchy-feely, the result is something that makes your skin crawl for all the wrong reasons.

*1/2

WHAT: “Frankenstein,” adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel by Jon Spelman

WHERE: Round House Silver Spring, 8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through Nov. 12.

TICKETS: $25 to $35

PHONE: 240/644-1100

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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