Tonika Todorova is an adventure architect and a passionate lover of the shared human experience.
Pictured: Sarah Fornace. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
By Tonika Todorova
Manual Cinema could hardly choose a production more closely matching their aesthetic than FRANKENSTEIN. With its monochromatic tones, gloomy live soundtrack and calculated melodrama, the play is a wonderfully unapologetic Victorian Era offering presented by the sui generis of this genre. And the best part is that you get to see how it’s all done.
Manual Cinema creators Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, and Julia Miller bring their expertise to a whole new level at Court Theater. In addition to a multi-camera set up and overhead projectors, the stage is littered with instruments of music making (original music by Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman), and an ensemble of silent ninja proportions flawlessly ballet around the noise making debris. These people know that watching how they do what they do is more fun than what they are doing and they have no qualms showing their every secret. Revealing what would be otherwise considered a “backstage” experience is what renders the final onstage experience so darn impressive. At certain points, while they emulate a turn-of-the-century silver screen aesthetic, the realization sets in that this ensemble has managed to create a black and white silent film edited LIVE better than some celluloid originals from that genre.
This production relies on the fact that most of the audience comes with prior knowledge of the FRANKENSTEIN story and Mary Shelley’s wretched life surrounded by death, mostly infantile and traumatic, as there are a few plot points that tend to blur the lines of what is the fictional story that Shelley wrote and what are facts from her life. Although presentations from both are done exquisitely, without any prior context, these can get confusing under the umbrella of the same aesthetic.
The message of FRANKENSTEIN is ageless: that which you can create can destroy you. And so we must pay attention to our minds and their dark corners because as Mary Shelley says: “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.”
FRANKENSTEIN runs through December 2nd. For more information visit courttheatre.org.