Take Mary Shelley's original novel, quotes from its influences and adaptations, the 1931 film projected in the background, a few creepy songs, moments both of visceral terror and high-flown intellect, and a staging that has the audience alternately following the actors around and jumping out of their way, throw them all in a blender, and you'll have some idea of what you'll get at this version of "Frankenstein," adapted by director Sean Graney and his four-member cast. There is an awful lot going on during this show's swift running time, and not all of it works. The parts that do are hugely exciting, but it hasn't yet formed a satisfying whole.
Graney's four-actor adaptation shows its alternately grim and playful tone from the beginning, when the audience enters to see both bloody dolls hanging from the ceiling and a game of balloon-toss in process. This mix continues when the play proper begins—it can switch from moments of stomach-turning violence (brilliantly choreographed by Matt Hawkins) to Frankenstein (John Byrnes) and his monster, here called Daemon (Matt Kahler), joking that the pen used to sign an oath in blood is "ginormous."
And for the first 25 minutes or so, it's brilliant. But the play never follows through on its best parts. It goes in too many directions without follow-through, and there are a few too many sections of speechifying that don't satisfyingly tie in to the play. (The huge space at the MCA also dissipates the energy, leaving too much of the audience too far away to really engage.) There's no doubt that this is a group of intelligent, talented artists and it's wonderful that they have the chance to explore their ideas on such a large scale. It's just that the whole is less than the sum of its often stunning parts.