'Monster' (June 7-8, 13-16)

'Monster' (June 7-8, 13-16)

June 6th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Art

Kaleb Moran, left, as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, shares a moment with Elizabeth, portrayed by Kristina Lumm, in "Monster."

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

What: "Monster"

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, June 7-8 and June 13-16

Where: Jim G. Lewis Studio Theatre, UTC Fine Arts Center, 752 Vine St.

Admission: $15

Phone: 423-425-4269

Website: Theaterforthenewsouth.com

Movies and television have turned Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" into the story of a monster, but there is more to mine in the book, according to the director of a stage adaptation of the classic that opens Friday, June 7, at the UTC Fine Arts Center.

"Monster," written by Neal Bell and based on Shelley's book, is the final show in the Theater for the New South's second season.

"It's interesting that although [the playwright] takes several liberties with the story and structure, it's probably closest to Mary Shelley's intent," says director Blake Harris.

"Monster," he says, concentrates on what Dr. Victor Frankenstein tells Capt. Robert Walton about his life when they meet on an iceberg near the North Pole in the early 1800s.

"Most versions concentrate on the creation [of the monster]," Blake says. "They skip over the element of the storytelling and his memory. We're not sure how accurate he is as a storyteller. That gave us some liberties to soften the edges" as to how he would remember things.

The play delves into themes of sexuality and humanity.

"In Shelley's work," says Harris, "the theme of sexuality is an undercurrent. [Bell] has taken that undercurrent and taken it into a tidal wave."

In doing so, he says, the play finds Dr. Frankenstein exploring his own psyche as he recounts his story.

"Monster" focuses on the doctor's journey and his goals, according to Harris, and allows the audience to see the character, as protagonist, as "a rather self-centered man with unchecked ambitions."

At the same time, he says, the audience can step back and consider what he is telling them with a bit of jaundiced eye.

By now, the surprise elements of "Frankenstein" are "few and far between," Harris says, but the surprise elements in "Monster" are different.

Audiences get to ask bigger questions, instead, such as what it means to be human, why we invest in relationships and who establishes what is moral when there are no checks and balances.

Thematically, with costumes and in set design, "Monster" is the production company's most ambitious show of the season. Harris says they saved it for last so that he, the cast and crew could take more time to collaborate and shape it as they went along.

The play is recommended for adult audiences.

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.