Nobody actually utters the infamously over-the-top line “it’s alive!” in Frankenstein 1930 – White Rock Players Club’s contribution to this fall’s round of spooky Halloween-season thrillers, now playing (until Oct. 15) at Coast Capital Playhouse.
But producer and past club president Fred Partridge said that in all other respects Fred Carmichael’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic – set squarely in the middle of the early-talkie era that spawned the original Universal Pictures- Boris Karloff Frankenstein – fulfills every requisite of its delightfully creaky idiom, right down to a laboratory set that promises to deliver a few sparks and flashes along the way.
And Partridge added that, for old school suspension-of-disbelief melodramatics played straight – albeit with a somewhat unnatural gleam in the eye – Frankenstein 1930 matches the 1927 Balderston-Deane stage adaptation of Dracula, frequently revived as a period piece.
It’s probably not coincidental that director Dann Wilhelm played Jonathan Harker in the last Players Club production of the latter show in the early 2000s.
“Dann has a nice quirky sense of this kind of material,” Partridge agreed.
“He likes the story of Frankenstein – he’s actually read Shelley’s novel. He wants it to be realistic on one level while still delivering all the chills.”
The Players Club’s version of Frankenstein has been in the works – or make that the laboratory operating table – for some time, Partridge said.
“We’d been looking for something for this part of the season that had a bit of history and would resonate with people, and Frankenstein 1930 has been on and off the list for five or six years.
“It came together for this season, and it offers a nice challenge with some of the effects we get to do. That’s something we like – to present shows that are a bit of a challenge. And it’s the kind of show that everybody can get behind.”
Frankenstein 1930 features Elliott Figuera (the slimy Rev. David Lee in Beach House Theatre’s The Foreigner this summer) in the title role of Victor Frankenstein, the young scientist so obsessed with the possibilities of creating artificial human life that he abandons all the ethical considerations of his training.
“He’s not as manic as he was depicted in the 1931 movie,” said Partridge.
“Victor is conflicted. He’s obsessed with his research. He starts to see that he’s crossing the line, but at that point there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s a little more three-dimensional portrait.”
Also featured are Janine Guy as Gorgo – a female counterpart to the traditional henchman, usually Igor in the movies.
“It’s Gorgo in the script,” Partridge observed. “It’s a he, but since Gorgo doesn’t have much of a social life it doesn’t really matter that much. Janine wasn’t what we were expecting but when she came in to audition she had such a spark she just grabbed the role. It’s quite the transformation.”
Frankenstein 1930’s all-important role of ‘The Creature’ – brought to life suddenly and arbitrarily and tragically bewildered by it – is taken by Jerret Schwartz, who supplies not only the stature but the acting chops required, Partridge said.
“The Creature is the hardest part in the show,” he said.
“You’ve got to do everything with pantomime and looks. We’re lucky to have somebody like Jerret to play it.”
Providing counterbalancing voices of the normal world outside the laboratory are Gary Pettinger as the august Dr. Hellstrom, Victor’s former scientific mentor; Lauren Gloanec (Private Lives) as his distraught fiancee Elizabeth, Brad Dewar as Henry, his loyal childhood friend, and Colleen McGoff Dean as his sweet but firm Aunt Frederica.
“Gary is new to us – he has all the gravitas you want from a man of science, but one who eventually finds himself being swept up in Victor’s enthusiasm,” Partridge said.
“He supplies a lot of the back story, but also dialogue on the moral issues.”
While the ‘Creature’ is usually perceived as the monster of the piece, Partridge noted the play doesn’t shy away from the deeper dilemmas suggested by Frankenstein’s tampering with nature.
“There is this question – is the Creature a person or is it not?” Partridge said.
“I don’t think anyone is 100 per cent sure.
“But it becomes a moot point once he starts his murderous rampage.”
Supporting roles are played by Chantelle and Kris Dewar, Paige Thomsen, Lionel Rust and Charles Buettner; the set design is by Paul Ledaire, with costumes by Laura McKenzie and lighting by Players Club veteran J.P Mackenzie.
Coast Capital Playhouse is located at 1532 Johnston Rd. For tickets and information, call 604-536-7535 or visit www.whiterockplayers.ca