Review: Frankenstein (adapted by Nick Dear) by Gaslight Baker Theatre
by Michael Meigs

The towering wall and platforms beyond the Gaslight Baker stage are swathed in white. When you settle into the already chilled audience space, you have the impression that you've been transported to the Arctic. That red, red sun in the distance is the only dim hint of possible warmth. A muted, percussive soundtrack seems to emanate from it as if from a celestial speaker.


Ben WhiteCTXLT reviews live narrative theatre -- stories told in words. There are none in the surprising, alarming opening scene when the blackout lifts to reveal a figure strapped to an inclined frame. Grunts, inarticulate groans, wails resound as the figure struggles free of its bindings and falls with a great slam onto the stage floor. Flailing, twisting, turning in loud agony, the figure is in pain and confusion.


Ben White as the creature will spend the long span of these two acts seeking to understand and seeking acceptance. His intensely physical performance is Michael Vybrial (via GBT)scary and yet sympathetic. As the creature wrestles with himself and the physical world, it encapsulates human development, both of the individual and of the individual in society. That initial clumsiness will be mastered. The creature, no long "it" but "he," will reveal himself as resilient, flexible, and intensely acrobatic, able to scale or descend apparently impossible elevations.


We aren't given the pre-story of Victor Frankenstein's electromagnetic experiments, body snatching, or suturing together stolen human parts. Initially, only the jagged, ugly scars across the creature's face suggest Frankenstein's affronts to the natural order. There's a momentary confrontation at the end of that first scene, but Michael Vybrial as Frankenstein scrambles for safety and disappears. Only later are we able to see that Victor is moody, inwardly focused, and distanced from family, acquaintances, and his fiancée Elizabeth (Samantha Plumb).Samantha Plumb (via GBT)


A picture is worth a thousand words, which is perhaps why director Jason Jones and the GBT scrupulously abstain from sharing images. You'll find that red-drenched opening image and various actor headshots online, but the stunning surprise cast across the winter-white set is intensely visual. With high-quality projections and a degree of stage magic, the GBT transforms the scene again and again into elaborate full-color interiors and trompe-l'oeil landscapes. The detail amazes; the sound track, precisely calibrated to the action, gives the story an intensely cinematic feel.


(via GBT)


The creature seeks language and seeks acceptance, but both are denied. People stone him, beat him, shun him. By placing the creature at the center of the story, playwright Nick Dear presents a parable more complex and relevant than Mary Shelly's original tale of terror. The protagonist finds first acceptance in the home of a blind man (David Young), who teaches him to speak and to read (including texts as difficult as Paradise Lost). When others drive the creature out of that safe haven and incite his reprisal against them, he resolves to seek out his creator. The inherent questions are those of any religion: Why am I here? Where did I come from? What is my Creator to me? The saddest moment comes at the finale, when the creature, bent on revenge and destruction, has learned to lie.


This is an extremely satisfying experience. However: where are the credits?  The lavish visuals  paint an empty stage to a throbbing soundtrack, but the GBT program gives no hint of their origins. Were they licensed along with the rights of performance? The music, strong and effective in supporting the action, is not credited and some, perhaps all, is taken from contemporary commercial sources (including, notably, Leonard Cohen's last album, the brooding 2016 release You Want It Darker). And there's no credit for set design, media/projection design, or music design. As in any small theatre, one assumes that the director and assistant director (Sondra Schaible) had a hand in this and the design elements may have been collaborative. But theatre is inherently a collaborative art, and even when contributions aren't compensated by pay, they should be recognized with credits.



Click to view the Gaslight Baker program for Frankenstein by Nick Dear

Director A. Jason Jones credits members of the GBT production team for Frankenstein


Frankenstein (adapted by Nick Dear)
by Nick Dear
Gaslight Baker Theatre

October 13 - October 28, 2023
Gaslight Baker Theatre
216 South Main Street
Lockhart, TX, 78644

October 13 - 28, 2023

Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.

Gaslight Baker Theatre, Lockhart

Click HERE for tickets.