Frankenstein Upstairs: plot synopsis
After taking audiences to a dystopian sci-fi future in last year's The Honeycomb Trilogy, Brooklyn geek-theater scribe Mac Rogers returns to the present with this horror story about a lesbian couple in Dumbo and their creepy upstairs neighbor. Longtime Rogers collaborator Jordana Williams directs a cast of four.
Frankenstein Upstairs: theater review by Helen Shaw
Critics rarely deny themselves the obvious pun; some temptations are too great for our all-too-human flesh. So, apologies to playwright Mac Rogers, but it must be said: His clever but underwhelming Frankenstein Upstairs seems a little… bolted together.
Brooklyn entrepreneurs Sophie (Autumn Dornfeld) and Marisol (Diana Oh) are busy balancing their lives as both lovers and partners in a social-media start-up; Marisol’s best chum, Taylor (Rob Maitner, unconvincingly pretending to be blind), is their main—and mainly uncooperative—client. The trio’s claustrophobic intimacy fractures when neighbor Victoria Frankenstein (exquisitely calibrated Kristen Vaughan) putters downstairs to make friends. Soon people are getting denatured in acid vats or sizzled with life-giving electricity. Basically, it’s a Tuesday night in Williamsburg.
Rogers has put serious thought into updating Mary Shelley, and certainly, any nerd will applaud stapling the high gothic onto a modern-day relationship drama. It’s just that here, the grafting refuses to take. Whenever stakes rise (did that mad doctor just cure death?), flat domestic rhythms dampen the excitement to a low buzz. Anticlimax follows each dramaturgical lightning strike, and if Rogers has deliberately made his characters whiny narcissists, the very serious cost is our sympathy. Execution may be to blame, as director Jordana Williams lets the central couple turn shrill and grating, and Taylor’s tantrums are unmemorable. Understandably, Rogers can’t resist tipping the sympathy scales toward the lovable, nutty, well-intentioned doctor. It’s just a shame he and his company do so by making everyone else so irritatingly monstrous.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
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