500 Clown Frankenstein at Viaduct Theater | Theater review

Mary Shelley’s monster tale gets a jolt of 500 Clown energy.

Photograph: JustinBarbin.com
500 Clown Frankenstein (2012)

There aren’t many productions in which a set piece can become a character, but then there aren’t many productions like 500 Clown Frankenstein. A table is the cause of much stress for three clowns and even more delight for the audience in this revival of 500 Clown’s hilariously loose adaptation of Mary Shelley’s horror novel. Used for stunning feats of physical comedy by the performers, the table takes on a distinct personality, transforming into a beast with its own hidden dangers.

The show features a rotating cast of five; on opening night, Dean Evans, Jay Torrence and Leah Urzendowski (who appeared together in the Neo-Futurists’ remarkable Burning Bluebeard) respectively played the roles of the scientist, assistant and storyteller with vigor and passion. With Beckettian futility, the three try to tell Shelley’s tale, but that damned table and their own foolhardiness just won’t allow it.

With the help of the audience, a body is assembled, but when the creature is brought to life, it resembles a petulant child rather than a bloodthirsty monster. Beneath the dynamic slapstick and clever verbal volleys is a surprisingly poignant exploration of trust, creation and parenthood. The story fittingly ends in tragedy, but it’s hard to walk out of the theater without a smile on your face.

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