Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Frankenstein Upstairs" Breathes Modern Life into an Old Tale.

Nearly 100 years after the publication of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," even the most avid fans sometimes forget that "Frankenstein" is a story not so much about a creature of the night, but rather about the monsters that live inside of us all. How far might we be willing to go to achieve our most desired objectives in life? What could we create if there were no limits? What might we destroy in the process? In an imaginative new drama, award-winning playwright, Mac Rogers, examines these and other lofty questions, and brings Shelley's old tale into the 21st century.

Marisol (Diana Oh) and Sophie (Autumn Dornfled) share a moment
photo by Deborah Alexander used with permission
"Frankenstein Upstairs" begins with a young couple, Sophie (Autumn Dornfeld) and Marisol (Diana Oh), living together in a hip Brooklyn apartment, and trying to come up with ideas to merge their small social media start-ups. Awkward as can be, Sophie is as serious and high strung about her business as she is about her relationship with Marisol, who happens to be her polar opposite in every way. Marisol is a goofy, carefree spirit with little interest in things like planners and time management, while Sophie schedules every minute of her life, including "sexy time" with Marisol (interestingly, that the couple's romantic chemistry is a bit less than believable, only makes their polarizing archetypes more believable). 

Sophie becomes more annoyed as her efforts to nail down a "SWOT" strategy (Strategies, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) for their companies keeps getting interrupted by momentary lapses in power, as well as Marisol's complete inability to actually focus on anything that might constitute working. Enter the elusive upstairs neighbor, Victoria Frankenstein (Kristen Vaughan), who too easily takes responsibly for causing the power outages in Sophie and Marisol's apartment, and jumps on the opportunity to befriend the girls. With a mysterious ancestry, an old journal from her grandfather, and a secretive work project she's reluctant to reveal, "Vic" impresses Sophie and Marisol, and especially begins to win over their friend and social media contact, Taylor (Rob Maitner). 

Victoria Frankenstein (Kristen Vaughan) examines an unconscious Marisol (Diana Oh)
photo by Deborah Alexander used with permission
Relations don't stay chummy for long, as the more the four players interact, the weirder and more oppressive things get for all involved. Following an argument between Sophie and Marisol, Sophie awakes to find Marisol unconscious. Usually cool and collected, Sophie begins to panic, until Victoria Frankenstein appears with an idea that will literally shock this couple to their core. Sophie is forced to make a choice that will forever change her, and she learns that every choice has consequences, and every action a reaction. 

Including a 10 minute intermission, "Frankenstein Upstairs" has a running time of nearly 3 hours, and could probably be cut in a few places, but overall it is a thought-provoking work of science fiction that will leave audiences questioning their own ideals, faiths and pragmatism. "Frankenstein Upstairs" is now playing at The Secret Theatre, in Long Island City, through June 30. This show may very well end up reanimating itself on a larger stage one day soon, but don't miss your opportunity to see it in this intimate setting. Purchase tickets now, and if you enjoy the play, vote for it to win a New York Innovative Theatre Award.

Read more about this and other of Mac Rogers' intriguing plays in his interview with The Brooklyn Rail.  

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