Playwright Nick Dear
At Remy Bumppo Theater Company at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.. Tickets: RemyBumppo.org;
773-975-8150; $37.75-$62.75. Runs through: Nov. 17
Imagine a newborn babynot a round, cuddly, greeting-card cherub, but a thin, pale, hairless anthropoid with the complexion of a peeled twig and a skull like a cracked eggshell. Now imagine this helpless infant's first experiences being rejection, privation, brutality and betrayal by those whose kindness cannot protect him.
Does it come as any surprise when this "monster" strikes out in mimicry of the cruelty shown him by his mentors?
That's the story of Frankenstein, according to British playwright Nick Dear, who considers Mary Shelley's metaphor from the perspective of the progeny brought forth by irresponsible technology. If science can truly create an artificial human being, what are its responsibilities toward its "children?" Are they entitled to the same rights and privileges as their parents, or are they property, doomed to servitude and second-class citizenry? ( This isn't an unprecedented question, by the way. Karel Capek, inventor of the word "robot," asked it in 1920. )
Perceived thusly, the nameless creature spawned by the amoral ambitions of Victor Frankenstein is not the barely-mobile titan we recall from the James Whale film, but vulnerable in both body and mind, emerging from his womblike sac ( replicated by an Alvin Ailey dance-bag leotard ) before gradually learning to crawl, then walk. Even after an old blind man teaches him language, his speech, while educated, continues to reflect his flawed comprehension of the universe described in the books available to him ( among them, significantly, Milton's Paradise Lost ).
A narrative inverted a full 180 degrees isn't an easy proposition for audiences to acceptespecially when they suspect that they are being cast as the villainsbut the Remy Bumppo Company, departing from its trademark drawing-room repertoire to take full advantage of the intimate new quarters at Theater Wit, embarks on a harrowing visceral journey conducted within a stark-white minimalist environment augmented by a soundscape invoking the surface of a cold and lonely planet. Its protagonist's isolation is further anchored by the conceptual device of two actorscompany members Nick Sandys and Greg Matthew Andersonalternating in the roles of the Creature and his Creator, the better to illustrate the connection between those who venture recklessly into the unknown and those whose revenge is to follow their would-be masters back out of its murky realms.