Catalyst Theatre’s Frankenstein

Last night, Sharon and I had the pleasure of attending The Mayor’s Evening (and opening night) for Catalyst Theatre’s award-winning production Frankenstein (thank you Jenifer for the invite). I had never seen Frankenstein before, but I had some idea of what to expect as Sharon and I saw Nevermore last May (Sharon saw Frankenstein back in 2008 too – read her excellent review here). I knew it would be an entertaining, unforgettable show, and it definitely was.

If you’ve never seen one of Catalyst’s productions before, you really must – they are unlike anything else! Thanks in large part to artistic director Jonathan Christenson and production designer Bretta Gerecke, everything just works so well. There’s the mostly dark stage and the effective use of light and shadows, the clever storytelling that manages to touch a range of emotions (including a bit of humor), and the very talented cast. And perhaps the magic element – the music.

I also love that they manage to make the simple things work so effectively. For instance, the way they opened the show, with Nick Green walking on stage in front of the curtains, looking around at the crowd. Eventually he cracked a mysterious smile and announced “fade to black”, and things got underway. So unique and memorable. Or take the props – none of them are particularly complicated (much less so than in Nevermore) but they still helped tell the story. How do you make Victor Frankenstein look like someone interested in science? Give him a giant magnifying glass!

The entire cast was great, but I thought Andrew Kushnir as Victor was superb, and I also really enjoyed Nancy McAlear as Justine Moritz. I felt the most powerful scenes were those between Victor and the Creature, played by George Szilagyi, though my favorite scene was actually the one where the Creature mustered the courage to introduce himself to Old Man DeLacy, played by Tim Machin. It’s the scene I remember most from reading the novel.

After the show I remarked to Sharon that although Frankenstein was great, I still preferred Nevermore. She said that for her, Frankenstein still stood out. We agreed that it’s probably the first Catalyst show you see that becomes your favorite because they make such a great first impression!

Frankenstein runs through Sunday at the Timms Centre for the Arts (on ShareEdmonton). In May it will be in Toronto, at the Bluma Appel Theatre, presented by the Canadian Stage Company. Nevermore will be in London in July, followed by New York in October. Next up for Catalyst Theatre is Hunchback, a commission by The Citadel Theatre, coming to its Mainstage Series in March 2011. As Mayor Mandel and many others said last night, it’s great see Edmonton’s Catalyst Theatre achieve such success around the world!

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