REVIEW: Creature or Monster? CCMActing’s “Frankenstein”

by Alan Jozwiak

      Should what Victor Frankenstein spawns in his laboratory be called a creature or a monster?  This is a question that the latest production of CCM Acting addresses.  The play, an adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel by Nick Dear, had its premiere at the Royal National Theater in London where the lead actors would switch between playing the roles of Creature and Frankenstein on alternate performances.

      In this production, director Susan Felder wisely chooses to concentrate her actor’s energies on one role, with seniors Kevin Naddeo and Hunter Trammell playing the roles of Creature and Victor Frankenstein respectively.  Both roles require radically different sets of acting muscles. Creature embodies extreme physicality that is on display when we see his birth at the start of the show. By contrast, Frankenstein embodies extreme emotionality when we see him dealing with the aftermath of Creature’s wrath and the disastrous consequences of playing God.

      Director Susan Felder does an outstanding job in moving this show along.  At two hours and fifteen minutes, there are places where this show could easily drag.  However, she deftly moves the action along and has the proper pacing for the material. I have been a fan of Felder’s work since seeing her other productions at CCM (I LOVED her “Hamlet”) and she does not disappoint with this show.  Felder finds the humanity in these ghoulish proceedings and makes the audience see things from both Creature and Frankenstein’s point of view.

      The opening sequence where we see the birth of the monster is outstanding.  There are arresting flashes of lightening, lighting effects, and equally amazing physical movements by Naddeo’s Creature struggling for life.  I am not certain which member of the creative team is responsible for the lightning, but it is truly an amazing way to start the show. The lightning also nicely highlights the rugged mountain backdrop scene created by CCM student Scenic Designer Sean Haffey.

      Kevin Naddeo does a great job with the role of Creature.  The first third of the show Naddeo grunts and flails around the stage as his character is getting control of his body and understanding his surroundings.  Naddeo then shows Creature’s fast learning curve, with him ending up being able to quote Milton at a moment’s notice.  That represents major character development and Naddeo effortlessly shows that progression through his performance.  It is a delight to watch because that transformation is so complete.

      Hunter Trammell plays the role of the emotionally tortured Victor Frankenstein. While Creature is all action, Frankenstein’s role is all reaction.  He reacts to what is going on with a wide range of emotions and Trammell does a great job charting those emotional reactions in his performance.  This is a difficult role to play because Frankenstein is so reactive. One moment in his performance that I loved is that despite feeling intense grief in the wake of his brother’s death, Frankenstein can still get caught up in the intellectual challenge of creating a mate for Creature.

      There is also a solid supporting cast for this play.  One standout is Cassandra Reeves, who plays the role of the blind woman DeLacey.  While written for a male actor, Reeves does a standout job being DeLacey, the blind scholar who is longing for company as she waits for her son and his wife.  It is a mixture of erudition and compassion.  Her performance makes her fate at the hands of Creature all the more heart-rending.

      Also providing a strong role is Gavin Duffy, who plays Victor’s younger brother William Frankenstein. William is the conscience of the piece, being part of an amazing dream sequence that Victor has while working on a mate for Creature.  Duffy combines the innocence of youth with the social conscience lacking in his older brother.  He delivers a memorable performance.

"Frankenstein" poster image, man in fetal position

      In closing, “Frankenstein” is one of those plays which provides food for thought while also being enjoyable to watch.  My only quibble with the production is that there were a few hiccups with Naddeo’s Creature headpiece and makeup in Act I which took me out of the scene.  Chalk that up to first night gremlins.  Overall, this show is definitely worthy of attention.

TICKETING

      CCM Acting’s “Frankenstein” runs February 9 to February 12, 2023, with all performances starting at 8 pm save for the 2 pm matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday.  There is also a talkback with the director and faculty from the A&S English department after the Friday evening performance. Click on the Box Office link for ticket information.