.Creature Feature

Cinnabar delivers an uneven retelling of 'Frankenstein'

no more pitchforks Robert Parsons brings a wounded dignity to his role as the Creature.

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as everyone knows, a creature is assembled from dead body parts and granted the spark of life. In Trevor Allen’s The Creature—a daring, artful, but ultimately problematic adaptation—the playwright puts Victor Frankenstein’s creation process in reverse, taking the original story apart and reassembling it into something similar, but entirely different.

Like Victor Frankenstein’s infamous original science project, it’s a bold idea that almost works, but ultimately goes more than a little bit wrong.

As directed by Jon Tracy—mixing up a meta-theatrical cocktail of misty atmosphere and sheer guts—Allen’s poetically minimalist take on the 1818 novel uses little more than three chairs, a snowy slab of white, a journal and a trio of actors. Eschewing special effects, action scenes and monster makeup, the three barefooted narrators of Shelley’s 1818 novel—Victor Frankenstein (Tim Kniffin), Captain Walton (Richard Pallaziol), and the Creature (Robert Parsons)—all take turns telling their side of the story, rarely moving or even interacting, as they spin together a long string of beautiful but oft-tangled words.

Unlike the novel—a tale within a tale within a tale—Allen places the narratives side by side, with the narrative bouncing back and forth like a ping-pong ball, every sentence or two. Confusion and exhaustion are just some of the by-products of the playwright’s fiendish experiment. Even worse, by breaking each man’s tale into such tiny fragments, the power of Shelley’s original story is almost entirely diminished, literally smashed to pieces.

As Walton, the ship’s captain who discovers Frankenstein near the North Pole and takes his deathbed confession, Pallaziol is quite good, and Kniffin, as the dying mad scientist, nicely captures the last-gasp desperation of the character, but his delivery becomes one note, flat and cold.

The Creature, played by Parsons, brings an impressive sense of wounded dignity to the role of an abandoned child, but Allen goes too far in trying to make the character sympathetic, even altering the details of the Creature’s various murders. In a deliberate deviation from Shelley’s text, Allen turns each murder—including the calculated act of framing an innocent woman for one of the deaths—into a regrettable but mostly unintentional accident.

Despite the best intentions, the play turns out to be less than the sum of its parts.


‘The Creature’ runs Friday–Sunday through Nov. 1 at Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm matinee. $15–$25. 707.763.8920


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