Local actors bring Shelley’s classic to life

By Shari Goldstein Stern

If you think you’re about to see a play that’s true-to-the film version of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” which you’ve seen a dozen times, you aren’t. “Thought provoking” is not a likely way someone might describe Hollywood’s “Frankenstein,” and the show’s a far cry from Mel Brooks’ outrageously funny “Young Frankenstein.” Instead, a unique, mind-bending production from a book by Nick Dear based on Mary Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein,” is currently being presented at Kalita Humphreys Theater through March 4. The production is presented by Dallas Theater Center (DTC) and Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Meadows School of the Arts.

The play challenges audiences to look carefully at what makes man superior to a creature, or not. What sets them apart? What is intellect and where do we get it?

Under Joel Ferrell’s direction (DTC’s associate artistic director), the play tells the story of scientist Victor Frankenstein’s experiment going horribly awry, and his exhausting effort to make things right. The demanding role of Victor Frankenstein is played masterfully by Brierley Resident Acting Company member Alex Organ. Organ is known to challenge himself with meaty, difficult roles, and this may be one of his best.

DTC and SMU have created a dark, while breathtaking treatment of the title. It is exquisitely cast, with Kim Fischer in his debut at DTC as the Creature.

Fischer is onstage and in motion close to 100 percent of the two-hour show, with only a 15-minute break at intermission. The young man’s lithe, fit, frame twists, turns, deforms and contorts with seeming ease. In this version of the story, the Creature wants to learn everything without boundaries. He learns to read from a blind tutor and evolves into a human-like soul who’s a little rough around the edges. He learns about love and seeks it for himself. He demands that his creator, Victor Frankenstein create a woman for him.

The cast also includes fellow Brierley Resident and SMU faculty member Kieran Connolly, who plays Monsieur Frankenstein. Jolly Abraham plays Elizabeth Lavenza, joined by SMU faculty member Blake Hackler as De Lacey/Ewan.

It’s hard to take your eyes off the set designed by SMU graduate student Amelia Bransky. Fellow designers include lighting design by Tyler Micoleau; wig design by Leah Loukas; projection design by David Bengali and projection programming by Ido Levran; costume design by Beth Goldenberg; sound design and original music by Ryan Rumery.

The lighting and projection team has created a mesmerizing, fluid backdrop of projections. Although some of the graphics aren’t easily discernable, they help create the dark aura. At one point, according to cast member Donovan Covarrubias, the Creature sees himself in a reflection of rain on the screen.

Covarrubias, as William Frankenstein, is a Lakewood resident who attends Lakehill Preparatory School. The young actor said that he was invited to a casting call along with about 30 others to audition for “Frankenstein.”

He read a monologue, recited lines and varied them with additional emotions. Covarrubias said he was very excited to make the show. “It was a relief to meet everyone,” he said. He realized he didn’t have to be apprehensive.

The middle-school student has stage experience from both school and summer camps along with Dallas Children’s Theater. Some of the shows he’s been in are “Making It,” “Matilda,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe.” The young actor was seen in DTC’s 2017 production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Covarrubias wants to continue acting and would like to attend Julliard. He hasn’t decided whether he wants to specialize in theater or film and commercials. At least he has plenty of time to decide.

The young thespian’s message to other young, aspiring performers is, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t think you’re going to get judged for the way you act. Be proud when you go onstage.” Asked if he is a triple threat, Covarrubias said, “I’m not the best dancer but I can sing.” Based on his acting performance in a major role, he has a brilliant future ahead. Audiences can look forward to seeing more of him.

SMU students in the cast include Aaron Campbell, Chris Sanders, Richard Johnson, Tia Laulusa, Neil Redfield, Molly Searcy and Galen Sho Sato. SMU ensemble members include Jeliannys Acevedo Cuadrado, Sydney Lo, Deanna Ott and Dakota Ratliff.

Elaine Brown from Plano is a patron who raved about the show. She said, “He [the Creature] seemed like a baby who was coming into an awareness of the world around him.”

Brown knows a thing or two about young, developing minds. She is the proud grandmother of 10-month old twins.

“Frankenstein” will run through March 4 at Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. in Dallas. For tickets and information, visit dallastheatercenter.org or call 214-880-0202.

Photos by Paxton Maroney