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The Captain's Log

The Captain's Log

Review of TheaterCNU’s Dr. Frankenstein

Thunder claps and fog penetrates the air. Trees surround you with their gnarly branches reaching out as if to steal you from the night. On one side of the room is a living room complete with a fireplace, plush chairs, and a coat hanger. On the other side lies a completely different picture that consists of a laboratory complete with intricate tools and bottles for unknown reasons. Suddenly a young woman faces out from the stage into the darkness to deliver a lecture on the human brain. Between her and the audience stands a wooden table with a white sheet that covers the entirety of an unknown being lying on the table. Is it a body? Is it an animal? Is it alive? These are the questions the audience members are asking themselves as CNU’s production of Dr. Frankenstein begins. 


Victor Frankenstein becomes Victoria Frankenstein in this feminist adaptation by Selma Dimitrijevic. The foundation of the classic story still stays the same through several ways such as the testing relationship between father and ambitious daughter, the characterization of the pious governess Justine, and the fear that Creature instills every time he enters on stage. All of these aspects are incorporated into an engaging play that alternates between the Frankenstein’s domestic family home in England and Victoria’s laboratory at university in Bavaria where she experiments between life and death. The gender swap of such an iconic character alters the story significantly but in a way that highlights the intellect and strength of womanhood as a whole. 


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Taking place in the studio theater in a thrust setting, seats surround both sides of the stage for an intimate perspective. The set is shaped like an hourglass with there being a long, narrow walkway in the middle to separate Dr. Frankenstein’s lab and the Frankenstein residence. This ultimately helps create a bigger distinction between the two important locations of the play and gives the audience much to examine and think about as they settle into their seats. Long sheets of brown paper with jagged lines of black painted on top hang from the rafters to give the illusion of a forest and smoke machines and sound effects add to the scenery. While the set is impressive enough on its own, it is really the cast that made Dr. Frankenstein one of the best productions that CNU has put on in the past four years. 


Gwen Hawdon shined as Dr. Victoria Frankenstein and led with such conviction and belief in her goals and purpose that it was easy to understand why her character was so passionate about saving others. The moment where she denied playing God on the grounds that, “He wasn’t the one who created life. I did,” serves as a frightening reminder of everything that Dr. Frankenstein is capable of and the altering consequences that occur as a result of her ambition. Jimmy Grimes brought a fascinating but disquieting interpretation as Creature, the monster that Dr. Frankenstein created in her lab. His movements were uneasy but effective as the audience never quite knew what he was capable of when he came on stage. Add in his chilling monologues and Creature became a character worthy of a kid’s nightmare, though the loneliness he experienced made the audience pity him as well. The rest of the female characters have a bigger role in Dimitrijevic’s version of Dr. Frankenstein compared to the original. Oline Hale’s Elizabeth becomes a concerned sister rather than a careless fiancee; Jamie Lafever plays a maid who seems to be a surrogate for the missing maternal influence in the Frankenstein household. And when Cora Barr’s vivacious Justine is wrongfully sent to the gallows you mourn her just as much as the characters do. 

 Henry Clervel, played by Brayden Crickenburger, also has a more significant role in the play compared to the book since he serves as Victoria’s best friend and is her tether between the real world and the world she has created in her mind. Finally Luke Dufilho plays the patriarch of the Frankenstein family and is a cold and callous father to Victoria who just wants his support. Even though the run has now ended, all of the shows for Dr. Frankenstein were sold out and it will certainly go down as one of CNU’s most impactful and memorable productions in the years to come.

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Fiona Sullivan, A&E Editor
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