WEST JORDAN — The Sugar Factory Playhouse version of Frankenstein (with a script by Mark Scharf) was a perfectly supernatural play, with all the strange, frightening, and ghostly experiences anyone could wish for in a Halloween show. And I loved how the cast seemed to perform straight from the heart.
The quaint little Pioneer Hall made me feel like I was in a small town theater, despite having driven through heavy traffic to get there. I loved the old building, the fun Halloween decor looking even more perfect against the rough stone walls outside and antique architecture inside. The ambient eerie music added to the fun of seeing Frankenstein at this time of year. I was very impressed by the quality and good feel for such a low price. Parking, however, was tricky. I arrived 40 minutes early, just in time to miss the last painted parking spot. (I created my own spot and as others followed in my footsteps we made a whole new row. I’m so proud.)
This show was directed by two brothers, Travis and Brandon Green, who created powerful moments by helping the actors speak clearly and create riveting emotional scenes. The small stage was put to great use, having various scenes on different sides and corners of the stage, and I loved the choice of using a candle to light the narrator’s face while the other actors changed the scene in the dark. Travis Green also played the Landlord, and he made an excellent angry drunk.
Victor Frankenstein was played by Marc Reading, who was amazing at pulling deep intense emotion from inside himself and projecting it throughout the theater. I loved seeing his character change, like when he says, “I need raw materials,” while sounding deeply remorseful at what he has chosen to do after the Monster (played by Adam Cannon) asks him to make a female companion. I likewise loved Cannon’s acting. He was cast well, being very tall and broad-shouldered, and his voice was deep and gravelly. He also kept a constant deranged expression that matched his excellent stage makeup, which included a raised scar across his forehead, nose and cheek. His interaction with Reading was powerful and scary, as well as his silhouette moments.
Captain Robert Walton was played by Oran Marc de Baritault, and his narration was so interesting and foreboding, especially when the Green brothers had the scenes changing in darkness while Baritault was lit with one bright candle he held at the base of his chin. I thought his change from narration to being in the moment was perfect, as his focus switched between audience and his fellow actors.
Though the set (designed and constructed by Josh Hawkins, Jeanine Hawkins, and Stacey Miller) was simple, it was used well, especially the curtains that served as a great backdrop to intensify the electricity coming down to bring the monster to life. I also loved the use of candles and how they added to the overall ghostly look of the set. And with a seemingly small budget, costume designers Bri Bedore, Laura Bedore, and Mary Mason made the costumes look pretty good. I really loved Elizabeth’s dress and the furs they added to costumes as the story moved further north.
I was surprised by the way the show changed in acting. It started out with somewhat mild and even mediocre acting, with less technique in accurate performing. But as the night progressed, each actor was able to build the emotional intensity coming from the heart. There were moments from Elizabeth (played by Brighton Sloan), Mary (played by Hannah Earl), and Peasant (played by Ann Sharp) that nearly floored me. One of these moments was when the monster confronts Mary, and Earl built the fearful exchange until she was visibly shaking and as he drags her off. Her blood-curdling scream was enough to haunt my dreams tonight. Sharp portrayed the Peasant so well that I could imagine her as a woman living off the coast of Norway or Scotland, being very cold and desperate all the time. Finally, Sloan, after Elizabeth’s death had some amazing moments of “haunting” Victor with such a depressingly cold look on her face that it made Mary Shelley‘s story so much darker and more difficult to forget.
Most of the Green Brother’s directorial choices were phenomenal. Their use of silhouettes was a fantastic addition to the macabre feel of the show. There were a couple deaths done through the screen, one very sudden, and the dead stood as silhouettes in some moments. I also liked how after Elizabeth died, she got up and walked off as Reading continued narration, until he said her name, and she turned back and looked at the audience and him for a creepy second before exiting. I would love to see more productions directed by the Greens.
For only a few dollars a ticket, Frankenstein is definitely worth your time. It was such a good introduction to the Halloween season, and with shows like this, Sugar Factory Playhouse will be around a long, long time.