IndyFringe: ‘Mary and Her Monsters’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

You know that Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein,” but do you know who she actually was — and what her life was like — to inspire her to give us this story?

Lou Ann Homan stretches her storytelling chops to give us the naïve innocence that led Mary to her destiny.

Mary was far too innocent and star-struck by Percy Shelley to realize how he was manipulating her. She honestly believed he loved her but overlooked the multiple instances of his infidelity and cruelty to her and her children. Even though she strove to be a writer, and fought to learn more of science, medicine and other things considered “not for girls,” she was constantly foiled by her circumstances.

Still, she persevered — that really is the message here. She fought and kept trying until she finally made a success. While the publishing of her novel did not change her circumstance in any way, it still made her feel complete.

Come hear the story behind the legend and discover the truth of what is wrapped in that silk cloth lovingly placed on her desk.

“Mary and Her Monsters” is presented by Homan at the Firehouse union hall, 748 Mass Ave.

 

Civic’s puttin’ on a hit

NOTE: As the Word/Eagle is in flux with the renaming and corresponding change in official website, John is putting his reviews here — for now.

By John Lyle Belden

For a more-silly-than-spooky Halloween crowd-pleaser, you can’t go wrong with “Young Frankenstein,” presented by the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre through Nov. 5 at The Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Carmel.

In this Mel Brooks musical, based on the Mel Brooks movie (inspired by the Mary Shelley novel), Frederick Frankenstein (played by Steve Kruze), grandson of the infamous mad doctor – who has changed the pronunciation of his surname in a vain attempt to shake its infamy – must go to his grandfather’s castle in the generically central/eastern European town of Transylvania Heights to settle the estate.

Once there, Frederick meets family servant Igor (Damon Clevenger), who has rounded up a lovely lab assistant, Inga (Devan Mathias). At the castle, they are welcomed by Frau Blucher (Vickie Cornelius Phipps), who was more than a housekeeper to the elder Frankenstein – a case in which a single line from the film became a whole song in the musical.

The temptation to follow in the family business becomes too great, and Frederick makes a Monster (B.J. Bovin) despite the village having passed a law against such practices, inviting the ire of local police Inspector Kemp (Parrish Williams). Add a surprise visit by Frederick’s fiancé Elizabeth (Nathalie Cruz) and a lot of mayhem – and song-and-dance numbers – ensue.

This production goes all-out on the famous “Puttin’ on the Ritz” singing Monster scene, a great credit to the cast and choreographer Anne Nicole Beck. And Williams doubles as the blind Hermit in another famously funny scene.

No one can match the manic genius of Gene Wilder, but Kruze manages to make the title role his own. Cruz and Phipps are natural scene-stealers, and Mathias is a treat. Bovin makes the most of the limited motions of the Monster, and his often-confused expressions add to the comedic effect. But the show doesn’t work without a great Igor (pronounced “Eye-gor”), and Clevenger is pitch-perfect in the role. It’s a credit to the others that he doesn’t steal the whole show.

Brooks’ gags still zing and his Tony-nominated monster of a musical still entertains. Get info and tickets at civictheatre.org.

John L. Belden is Associate Editor at The Eagle (formerly The Word), the central-Indiana based Midwest LGBTQ news source.

So much more than the sum of its parts

NOTE: As the Word/Eagle is in flux with the renaming and corresponding change in official website, John is putting his reviews here — for now.

By John Lyle Belden

The Khaos Company Theatre production of “Frankenstein,” adapted from the Mary Shelley novel by Indiana playwright Lot Turner, demands patience of the viewer.

It seems a bit wordy in the beginning, a flood of exposition as Victor Frankenstein (James Crawley) makes his confession to the sea captain (James McNulty) who has found him near the Arctic Circle. But the pace becomes more manageable as the story continues. Perhaps it was because I saw the play on opening night, but I saw Crawley get more comfortable in Victor’s skin as the evening wore on.

I was surprised to find that Sarah Johnson was in her first stage role as Justine, Frankenstein’s beautiful assistant – a petty thief who repays Victor’s kindness by plying her trade in graveyards. Johnson is natural and compelling in her complex role. There are no hunchbacks in this story; instead we get the tension between Justine’s genuine affection for Victor and his engagement to his bitter cousin Elizabeth (Linda Grant).

Jason Neuman is excellent as The Creature. His patchwork man speaks – and remembers, deepening the tragedy. Also notable is Bridget Isakson as Frankenstein’s mother, who never forgave Victor for surviving a childhood accident while her other son died.

The drama concludes with an interesting twist, a thought-provoking alternative ending to Shelley’s original fable.

I must also praise Johnson’s makeup effects and the KCT crew’s inventive creation of Victor’s laboratory machinery.

For the wary and budget-crunched, know that Friday, Oct. 28, is pay-what-you-want admission. Final curtain is Saturday, Oct. 29; performances are at the KCT stage, 3125 E. 10th St., Indianapolis. Info and tickets at kctindy.com.

John L. Belden is Associate Editor at The Eagle (formerly The Word), the central-Indiana based Midwest LGBTQ news source.