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Walt Whitman High School Frankenstein

By • Feb 27th, 2012 • Category: Cappies

While horror and zombies proliferate through pop culture with overwhelming successes in television programs such as “The Walking Dead” or the countless movies featuring the ambling, moaning monstrosities we have all grown to love, many forget the original progenitor of reanimated cadavers as horror trope; Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his ungodly Creation. In a production that proves that the story of his monster remains quite alive, Walt Whitman High School’s presentation of Frankenstein was nothing less than electrifying.

Based upon Mary Shelley’s undying magnum opus originally penned in 1818, Victor Gialanella’s stage adaptation remains closely tied to the plot line of the original story with only slight changes and additions from the famed Gothic novel. The play follows Victor Frankenstein as he instills life into a stolen corpse and his creation’s subsequent struggle to survive in a world which recoils in terror at the slightest glance at him.

Walt Whitman High School aptly managed to create a truly terrifying piece of theatre, fusing advanced stage craft with believable portrayals of unbelievable horrors. Joe Lilek, as the Creature which Dr. Frankenstein created, gave a chilling performance, displaying mastery of both body and voice. As Lilek’s character delved deeper into the world of man, his character physically changed from a grunting, off-balance newborn to a chillingly eloquent and sprightly monster, commanding the stage with both petrifying glares and awe-inspiring expressiveness. His makeup, designed by Lena Aragon, consisted of a realistic scar running down his forehead and chest, in addition to a slathering of discolorations across his body. Lilek’s interactions with Nathan Liu, playing an old blind man named De Lacey who befriends the creature, provided much needed comic relief, playing off Liu’s subtle humor to create adorable and hilarious interactions, such as teaching the Creature to read and helping him understand spoons.

Jay Besch, as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, realistically developed his character, clearly portraying his amassing trepidations and concerns. While other performers were occasionally liable to fall into a melodramatic style of acting or to under-react to devastating situations, Besch stayed in the bounds of believability even under great strain. As his wife to be, Sasha Berger took upon the role of Elizabeth with maturity, giving a performance backed by a womanly physicality and a pragmatic disposition when faced with adversity. The pair of gravediggers, played by Sam Dodd and Sophie van Bastelaer, worked well together, encapsulating the filthy, lower class temperaments needed by their roles.

The technical aspects of the production truly stitched together the horror genre into a cohesive and bloodcurdling play. The lighting effects worked brilliantly to portray both emotion and real world occurrences, utilizing cold, blue washes of light to evoke serenity, which would quickly be quashed by blinding strobes to and bright cycloramic flashes to represent lightning. The two tiered set featured a staircase which parted down the middle, revealing Frankenstein’s steam punk style lab equipment, complete with real sparks, blasts of compressed carbon dioxide, and whirling knobs and levers. The stage crew was wholly invisible, conducting scene changes with near unthinkable speed and silence, transporting furniture on and off stage completely unnoticed. The sound crew perfectly executed booming and startling effects, interweaving them in with a ever present, unnerving sound track.

With a spine chilling performance backed by extraordinary tech and talented leads, Walt Whitman High School’s production of Frankenstein revitalized a classic with realism and wit that even the undead could enjoy.

by Max Johnson of McLean High School

Photo Gallery

Jay Besch as Victor Frankenstein and Joe Lilek as the Creature Joe Lilek
Jay Besch as Victor Frankenstein and Joe Lilek as the Creature
Joe Lilek
Joe Lilek Jay Besch
Joe Lilek
Jay Besch
Jay Besch as Victor Frankenstein, Joe Lilek as the Creature and Lena Aragon as the Companion
Jay Besch as Victor Frankenstein, Joe Lilek as the Creature and Lena Aragon as the Companion

Photos by Marcus De Paula

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