A sparse Saturday crowd and a daytime performance would be expected to take the sting out of “Frankenstein.” After all, the crowd would never be able to forget that they are just steps away from a sunny afternoon at a strip mall, a bank, and a drive-up coffee place. Yes, that is what one would think. However, one would be wrong. Paradise Theatre combined an awesome set, top-notch music, and special effects, and actors who really care about their work. The result is a production of “Frankenstein” that is surprisingly taut, under Jeff Richards’ deft direction. Once again, the little theatre that can…did, and Drama in the Hood was there to see it happen.
First of all, the folks in charge of this production eschewed the trite and corny. The monster is hideous (three hours of pre-production makeup will do that even to the handsome visage of Rex Davison.) but there are no bolts sticking out of his head. Instead, Mr. Davison looks like he was in a head-on collision with a latex delivery truck. Doubtless, his angsty performance was informed every time he looked in the mirror. This monster was particularly erudite in his willingness to share his pain, and Rex Davison was the best choice from the Paradise Theatre stable of frequent performers.
Dr. Frankenstein himself is superbly drawn in the person of Michael Drake, who has offered the Gig Harbor theater crowd nothing but fine performances. This one is no exception. Dr. Frankenstein cannot accept that death is final. His efforts to prove otherwise turn on him again and again, but still he tries with perseverance that borders on demonic possession. In many ways, his obsession is far scarier than his creation’s out of control ferocity. Dr. Frankenstein’s brilliance is turned askew by his inner torture. Michael Drake is up to the task.
Amanda Gardner’s Elizabeth Frankenstein takes a back seat to no one in terms of excellence in this production. She’s loyal to her man but has absolutely no answer to what is ailing him. She deserves better than she gets in Dr. Frankenstein, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Woody Allen gets credit for that line, but it has been heartbreakingly true for thousands of years. Amanda Gardner’s classy performance was a winner.
Two members of the supporting cast play multiple roles. Veteran actor Gary Fetterplace was born to that task. Of the three roles he embodies, the Professor, the elder Mr. Frankenstein, and the ship captain, perhaps his portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein’s father was his best. In that part, he is a Dad who only wants to be relevant in his offspring’s life. It is a position relatable to many fathers of adult children, and Gary Fetterplace nails it, as he usually does in any of the several theaters lucky enough to cast him.
Chelsea Pedro is a fairly new actress who has worked on several stages before settling on Paradise as her home shop. Her Justine and Monster’s Mate were well-played. In particular, her mating dance played out under spooky music and lights, was effective. I’m certain that Jeff and Vicki Richards, who helm Paradise Theatre, are thrilled to pieces that Ms. Pedro calls their theater her home.
“Frankenstein” is Mary Lou Mills’ fifth Paradise Theatre show and she is truly delightful in every one. This seasoned actress has come in for acclaim all over the northwest. She plays the dickens out of “Mom” in this show.
Actors act and come in for praise when they do a good job. Too often, the staff behind the show go on unacknowledged. Let that not be the case this time! Stage Manager Kim Myers is one of the main reasons this show works. She composed special music for “Frankenstein”, and is responsible for the very believable sound effects. No spoiler here, but that “crack” resonated in every person who was at the show Saturday afternoon. Ms. Myers deserves her own curtain call and a standing ovation for her efforts.
Paradise Theatre is a valuable member of the Gig Harbor community and a beloved member of Drama in the Hood’s South Sound family. They are also in need of an angel in order to keep their doors open past Christmas. If anyone within eyesight of this review has angel capabilities or knows someone who does, get in touch with Paradise Theatre in short order. The number is at the bottom.
Failing that, those who love good theater should buy a ticket to this show. It’s a thriller, meant to be enjoy… no, not enjoyed as much as it is meant to be experienced.
“Frankenstein” by R.N. Sandberg. Paradise Theatre, 3114 Judson St, Gig Harbor. Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, Sat. 2 pm through Sept. 29. Tickets: paradisetheatre.thundertix.com/events/134441. Info: paradisetheatre.org, or 253-851-PLAY (7529)