Frankenstein by Bowie Community Theatre has blood, violence, and drama, all wrapped up in a Gothic shell. This version was adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel by Victor Gialanella and Director Brian Douglas brought a freshness to this tale of the living creation of an eccentric scientist. Douglas interpreted the script “with an eye toward what it must have been like to read this tale for the very first time.” In doing so, Douglas has made Frankenstein a lapel-gripping exercise in terror.
The star of this show was Tennyson Harris. Harris embodied Victor Frankenstein’s creation with his vocal command and body language. His physique and scar-makeup sold the image of a powerful monster-man. Michael Bannigan made the titular Victor Frankenstein a fierce crusader of scientific discovery. With a thin frame and angular visage, he brought intensity to his every scene.
Another star of the show was the versatile and moveable set. Making use of scenery wagons, Douglas’ set evoked a variety of inside and outside locations. The most impressive of those locations was Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory, which consisted of levers, chains and a wicked-looking machine. Douglas even made use of Bowie Playhouse’s orchestra pit, which served as a grave. Douglas also earned his keep with his special effects work.
Ronald Araújo and Alan Barnett as the lowlife graverobbers Hans Metz and Peter Schmidt respectively were deviously entertaining. Araújo, in particular, was good at playing various emotional beats—from the charm of a crook, to the wrath of a violent man. Barnett was recently seen in Prince George’s Little Theatre’s The Man Who Came to Dinner.
Bill Brekke brought compassion to his role as the blind hermit DeLacey, who befriended Frankenstein’s Creation. Brekke’s performance was flawless. Waugh Chapel Elementary student Sammy Greenslit made his character William Frankenstein, Victor’s brother, sympathetic in light of the danger that faced him as the play progressed.
I loved Madelyn Dominiski as Victor Frankenstein’s betrothed Elizabeth Lavenza. Victor’s father Alphonse was played with panache by Stanley Livengood, who was seen last year in Dancing at Midnight. Alex Hyder, recently seen in BCT’s A Tomb With a View, brought angst to his role as Victor’s friend Henry Clerval. Ruta Douglas Smith was bossy as Frau Mueller, wife of policeman Lionel Mueller (Bill Fellows). Katie McCarren played Justine Moritz and served as Fight Captain.
With costumes ranging from a fanciful police uniform, hoop skirts and top hats, Costume Designer Linda Swann’s handiwork was award-winning. The women’s 19th-Century hairstyles were magnificent and the Creation’s facial scars believable due to Lexi Martinez and Janice Kinigopolous’ hair and makeup design.
There was a lot of physical action in this play, and Tom Plott lent verisimilitude to that action through his stage combat choreography. I liked the aged-looking gravestones, thanks to Set Dresser Ruta Douglas Smith and McCarren of Properties. The German accents were consistent due to the work of Dialect Coach Faith Leahy-Thielke. Fred Nelson’s sound design added realism to many of the scenes, especially an outdoor scene that used cricket sounds. Producer Cheramie Julianne Jackson assembled a dynamite production team.
This show is a match for a dark and stormy March night. Go see it and hold your partner tight.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
Frankenstein plays through March 25, 2018 at Bowie Community Theatre performing at The Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 805-0219, or purchase them online.