'Frankenstein' brings big acting to tiny stage



Kirkwood Avenue's Irish Lion had more than just the spirit of the Irish Monday night; it was filled with the spirit of theater. It was on this Halloween evening that the Monroe County Civic Theater's production of "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" truly came alive amid a congested setting of blarney balls and Baileys.

Working with a stage of about 15 feet by 15 feet and surrounded by tables filled with focused audience members, the cast craftfully maneuvered around the modest set. At one point, the Creature, played by junior Annie Kerkian, crawled through and around the audience, making the entire upstairs of the Irish Lion seem as if it were a living, breathing setting for the drama taking place.

The play had something for everyone, including love's flirtations to passionate moments of Victor Frankenstein's breakdowns. Pulling together elements of suspense and intrigue, the cast was able to transform "Frankenstein" into a tale of raw human emotions, and it masterfully showcased the pain those emotions can sometimes cause.

"Fiend! Wretch! Monster!" audience members yelled as the Creature reached out for any sign of compassion or kindness from the crowd. It's not often that an audience get to be so actively involved in a performance, but the dinner theater's relaxed environment made it the perfect place for audience participation. Throughout the performance, it was apparent that the actors focused on the audience just enough to play off its emotions and reactions. The actors also remained focused on their professionalism so as to not be distracted by the clanking dishes and noisy wedding party in the next room over. Good or bad, it's all part of the dinner theater experience.

"There are pluses and minuses to working in any venue," director Russell McGee said. "In the close and intimate setting of dinner theater, there are a lot of distractions, which make the actors work that much harder to get their performance across."

And get their performances across they did, even on the smallest of stages. With an area roughly the size of a dorm room, the cast could have given limited performances, but they did just the opposite. The small space made the actors work twice as hard at bringing their characters to life -- characters with enough emotion and sense of drama to fill the biggest of stages.

"The smaller stage is very different from what I am used to and proved to be one of my biggest concerns," said junior Freddie Rodriguez, who played the stern-faced Captain Seville. "Backstage feels safe, but since I was on the small stage the whole time, it felt like I had nothing to fall back on. It was the most challenging role I've ever taken."

Many audience members left the Irish Lion with a new version of "Frankenstein" in their minds. What they saw was the tale of a desperate creation looking to find love and acceptance -- feelings universal to all. Through the use of captivating monologues and realistic interactions, the cast of "Frankenstein" did more than act out Shelley's classic novel -- it made it come alive.

"I went into the Irish Lion not knowing what to expect from the live version of one of my favorite books," junior Kayla Woodward said. "The play let me see another side of 'Frankenstein' that I never would have seen. Two thumbs up"

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