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CFA Stages a Chilling Monster

Gothic tale of Frankenstein at BU Theatre


John Zdrojeski (CFA’12) (left), as the Creature, and Michael Kaye, a CFA assistant professor, as Victor, in Neal Bell’s Monster, the Boston Center for American Performance production now playing at the BU Theatre. Photos by Kalman Zabarsky

When it comes to sturdy metaphors, Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, first published in 1818, has been the gift that keeps on giving. Variations on the cautionary tale—an egotistical or overzealous mortal creating a monster beyond his control—make for an ageless meditation on misguided power, from politics to business to science.

In Neal Bell’s Monster, a stage adaptation of the novel, the monster in this version of ego run amok is a creature, not an intimation of a creature. “It’s very visceral, a real ride,” says director Jim Petosa, a “huge gothic story” with all the trappings—in other words, it’s scary. The College of Fine Arts Boston Center for American Performance (BCAP) is staging Monster at the BU Theatre through February 25. “The audience experience will be very intimate,” says Petosa, a CFA professor and director of the CFA School of Theatre.

Monster is the latest in the theatrical, musical, and visual arts events included in the CFA keyword initiative, which this year is built around the theme of violence.

Kaye (from left), Tim Spears (CFA'06), as Clerval, Jake McLean (CFA'12), as Williams, and Britian Siebert (CFA'12), as Elizabeth, in Monster.

Kaye (from left), Tim Spears (CFA’06), as Clerval, Jake McLean (CFA’12), as Williams, and Britian Seibert (CFA’12), as Elizabeth.

Bell’s chilling one-act play, like Shelley’s story, is partly set in the Arctic and tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, who as a young student in Switzerland discovers the secret of bringing dead matter back to life. In his laboratory, Frankenstein creates a grotesque monster from body parts—in Bell’s play, “the Creature”—who vows revenge after encountering a world of cruelty and rejection. The well-worn tale still conveys with a shudder the message that “if we don’t tend to our creations they will come back to haunt us,” Petosa says. Frankenstein is played by Michael Kaye, a CFA assistant professor of acting and acting head of the MFA program in theater education.

Dr. Frankenstein, says Kaye, “is not a healthy dude. But he and I share a deeply rooted fear of death, and perhaps more importantly, what death teaches us about life. What happens when we die? Who will remember us? What do we leave behind? These are the impulses and questions that drive Victor to push the boundaries of science so that immortality can be realized.” Kaye’s acting credits include appearances with the Huntington Theatre Company, in residence at BU, the Lyric Stage, and at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, among others.

Bell, a Duke University professor of the practice of theater studies, is the recipient of an Obie award for sustained excellence in playwriting. His plays, including Two Small Bodies, On the Bum, and Spatter Pattern, have been put on by New York’s Playwrights Horizons and by regional theaters, among them Denver Center Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

In the Monster cast are John Zdrojeski (CFA’12) as the Creature, Tim Spears (CFA’06) as Walton/Clerval, Stephen Elrod (CFA’12) as Forester/Father, and Cloteal Horne (CFA’12) as Justine/Mother. Lighting design is by Christopher Brusberg (CFA’08) and costume design by Adrienne Carlile (CFA’11).

 Zdrojeski (left) and Cloteal L. Horne (CFA'12), as Justine, in Monster.

Zdrojeski (left) and Cloteal L. Horne (CFA’12), as Justine.

“What I find most compelling about the play is its romantic/operatic nature,” says Kaye. “The stakes are enormous, coupled with the fact that the play is written with such precision. Each scene is an explosion.” Audiences will be moved by the adaptation of Shelley’s timeless story, says Petosa, because it remains true that “for whatever we cause to become, we are responsible. This is true of individuals, groups, nations. If we abrogate that responsibility, the unrelentingly demanded toll will be the stuff of tragedy.”

Now in its fourth season, BCAP was created as the professional arm of the School of Theatre. Since its launch in 2008 with productions of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife, BCAP has staged a variety of critically acclaimed productions, most recently Daniel MacIvor’s House.

Monster runs through Sunday, February 25, at the Boston University Theatre, Lane-Comley Studio 210, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston. Take the MBTA Green Line E trolley to Symphony, or the Orange Line to the Mass Ave stop. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for the general public, $10 for seniors. Members of the BU community are entitled to one free ticket at the door, with BU ID, subject to availability. Purchase tickets here, call 617-933-8600, or visit the BU Theatre box office or the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston.


One Comment on CFA Stages a Chilling Monster

  • Zdorovecki on 02.17.2012 at 10:07 pm

    Perhaps an editorial mistake, but you omitted the scenic designer’s name: Martin Gjoni (CFA ’14), who did a remarkable job creating the chilling set.

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