The Bride of Frankenstein: An Adaptation by Sackerson Productions
Driving north on State Street, my car’s windshield was pelted by a downpour of rain. A layer of fog smothered the streets, hiding lines in the road. Slowing to a near stop, I turned left into a seemingly empty warehouse, an unearthly bluish-green light slithering out from the open door. I knew right then that was the perfect night to see Sackerson’s production of The Bride of Frankenstein.
Once inside, immediately to my right was a bubbling, black river. Purple and green lights shimmered from its surface, making it look oily and inky in the darkness. Walking to our seats felt like a haunted house as we made our way through narrow hallways covered by black tarps and fabric. I felt as though at any moment, a monster would jump through and scare me! The set, designed by Daniel Whiting, was enclosed by more fog, and violet and blue rays of light illuminated the set, which featured a coffin with the shadow of a handsaw, a hand-sized crucifix and a mummified woman with her head bowed in prayer. The effect of both sound and music, designed by Jaron Hermansen, gave me an ominous yet excited feeling with a mixture of extraterrestrial-like lighting and eerie music. Though the sounds were mainly lovely string instruments, every now and then I would hear a cackle, the screech of a violin and the constant pounding of a drum that resonated with that of a heartbeat.
Director Christopher Layton Clark’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein was most interesting in the way that it used voice clips from the original screenplay of Bride of Frankenstein (1935). None of the actors actually said any lines. Instead, the effect was an over dramatization of the language, playing more into the idea of puppetry, which held a prominent theme throughout the play. The actors/dancers in each scene generally wore terrifying, doll-like masks and moved their bodies as if they were puppets or dolls. During one particular scene, Dr. Septimus Pretorius (played by Bob Nelson) brought out the “humans” he’d created from scratch, calling them a “man-made race upon the face of the earth.” However, these creatures reminded me of the creepy nurses from Silent Hill: Their movements were jerky, unnatural and ventriloquist-like. Simply watching them gave me the chills.
Another brilliant aspect of The Bride Of Frankenstien was the makeup, executed perfectly by designer Bekah Wilbur. Every actor, except the lovely Elizabeth Frankenstein (played by Alexis Boss), had skeletal-looking, greyish contour. In reality, most of the dancers and actors onstage were more frightening than the Monster himself! The Monster, played frighteningly well by Kris Daries, goes through a torment of hell. Though he has life within him, he is cast off by humanity. Honestly, it’s no wonder he kills recklessly and with passion. What I found most beautiful about his character was, actually, his humanity. At one point in the play, the Monster finds himself at the home of a blind man, played by Shawn Saunders. The two give each other company, and the Monster is taught to speak and enjoy the pleasures of wine, smoking and—most importantly—friendship. It doesn’t take long, however, for this friendship to be ruined by those who wish the monster harm.
My favorite moment truly highlighted the idea that there is no difference between monsters and humanity. The Monster, having been chased out of the comfort of the blind man’s home, was captured by the citizens of the town. The Burgomaster (also played by Saunders) joins them, ready to put the Monster in further captivity, but instead says the line, “Where is he?” as if he cannot tell Monster and human apart. It was a truly telling moment in the play—the idea that there is no difference between the outward and inner monsters that live within humanity.
I must also give props to the choreographer, Jenny Barlow, who managed to make every moment—including the seemingly still moments with just the actors—into a modern dance. Whether it was the actors swaying back and forth between a swinging lightbulb or an active dance illustrating Elizabeth’s vision of death, the entire play took on that of a modern ballet. Another stunning individual was actress Maddy Forsyth who played Minnie, an animated character who tended to bring both comedic relief and grave news to the audience. She perfectly synced her lips with the voice clips and used her entire body to describe what was being said. Even the simple motion of opening a door or looking in another actor’s direction was filled with emotion and passion, and she brought a greater understanding of the play to the audience.
The end sequence was the most shocking and well-executed. I did not believe they would actually dare to pull someone’s body up toward the ceiling—but they did. As Dr. Frankenstein (played by Alex Ungerman) and Dr. Pretorius ventured to bring life to a female companion to the Monster, they raised her body off of the medical table she was on and lifted her up into the air to bring life and electricity to her heart. The costume (designed by Peter Terry) and makeup for the bride were absolutely stunning. If you want to see some truly amazing artwork and costuming on a body, you must see The Bride Of Frankenstein!
As a long-time lover of Frankenstein and classic horror, I was pretty skeptical about how The Bride Of Frankenstein would turn out. Could an adaptation really bring me as much joy as the classic? I have to admit that it did. There were moments when I was completely terrified, others when I was smiling for moments on end. The audience around me loved it as much as I did. We were part of the magic on the set. And as the producers of Sackerson (Alex Ungerman, Daniel Whiting and Dave Mortensen) believe, “there’s still magic in the theatre.” The Bride Of Frankenstein will be playing most of October, but if you want to see it for a great deal, go within the next two weeks (it’s half the price of the final shows!) and tell everyone about this production. After all, ‘tis the season!
Sackerson Production’s Bride of Frankenstein is on show through Oct. 31 at 1030 South 300 West. For tickets and more information, visit bride-of-frankenstein.com.