It may not have you jumping out of your seat, but Fallen Angel’s production of Monster, by Neal Bell, certainly is an eerie show. The play is an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and is a perfect choice for this time of year.
The cast, for the most part, is strong and the actors are clearly very connected with the world Bell has created. The characters move with a slow deliberation that is fitting with the strange story they are telling. The text is, at times, awkward, but the actors manage to work with it. They accept the other-worldliness of Bell’s play and allow the strange speech patterns to help shape the characters they portray.
Brad Carmichael, as Victor Frankenstein, speaks with an unsettling tone throughout the play. His voice and facial expressions seem vacant, which adds an interesting facet to his complex character. Carmichael conveys the disconnectedness this “mad scientist” feels from the rest of the world, and the fascination he has for the power of his own creations.
Carmichael’s character’s choices do, however, start to feel redundant by the end of the show. A better insight into his character could have been shown as the story followed him from childhood through to adult life.
Bell’s text, in fact, is far too long. Perhaps Shelley’s story is too detailed to be transmitted easily to the stage. Maybe some more disciplined editing could have cut the script down. As it is, Bell covers too many elements of the story in too convoluted a manner. His characters switch locations and time periods without a clear path for the audience to follow. Focusing in on key parts of the tale would have made for a deeper, more emotionally involved show.
The cast of Fallen Angel’s production does, however, manage to bring out whatever emotion can be found in Bell’s text. Andre* Simoneau is fantastic in the role of “the Creature”. Simoneau allows himself to be completely vulnerable as the newly-created masterpiece of Victor Frankenstein.
Playing an inhuman creature on stage is certainly not easy, but Simoneau leaves his inhibitions at the door and dives into the role without hesitation – and without a costume for the first couple of scenes. It takes courage to perform naked on stage, but what is most impressive about Simoneau’s performance is that he makes the audience forget about his lack of clothing by developing a strong and compelling character.
Simoneau’s movements are contorted and the first sounds he utters are powerful, guttural groans. He is a convincing monster and doesn’t lose his character’s physicality or tonal quality for a moment. His performance steals the show.
The set design for Monster is very minimalist. The majority of the show is played on a bare stage with a blank white wall as a backdrop. Victor’s study, where some scenes take place, is created with just a few pieces of furniture. The lack of props and set pieces leaves the actors to create the space themselves. The audience doesn’t feel the need for a more elaborate setting. The lighting for the show is also very simplistic. Red light is used now and again to add dramatic effect for particularly gory or frightening scenes.
The seating arrangement for the audience is unconventional, and one may leave the show wondering why this was so. Audience members are seated perpendicular to the stage, with an aisle created between the rows as a passage for the actors. This seating forces the audience to turn sideways to look at the stage, which is an uncomfortable position for anyone to hold for two solid hours. The seating would be understandable if the majority of the action was played in the aisle between the rows of seats. In this show, however, the actors merely use the aisle to make their way up to the stage and most of the scenes are played out there.
Some audience members grew so tired of the uncomfortable position they moved their own seats to face diagonally towards the stage. Creating discomfort for the viewer is certainly an unwise choice for any company who wants the audience to come back for another show, or even stay for the second act.
Strange seating aside, the production of Monster is a captivating show that will definitely put you in the Halloween mood, even after Oct. 31. Bell’s play, though scattered, is suitably creepy and keeps the audience intrigued most of the time.
Fallen Angel Productions has a good show on their hands, and should be commended for the guts and gore they are willing to show.
Monster runs at Monument National (1182 St. Laurent Blvd.) until Nov. 5