This is a Frankenstein 'that will make the Bible look subtle'

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'Frankenstein' in Denver

Photos from the Aug. 23 first rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company’s ‘Frankenstein,’ opening Sept. 30 in the Stage Theatre. Above in shadow is Director Sam Buntrock. To see more photos, click here. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

We all learn at a very young age what that word means. Frankenstein: To bring a dead thing back to life. And so you know that anyone coming to see a play called Frankenstein already knows the essential story.

Frankenstein Sullivan Jones, Mark Junek That’s why Director Sam Buntrock promises his upcoming production of Frankenstein will hit the ground running.

“This is not an upper West Side play about relationships,” Buntrock said. “It’s do-or-die. It’s life and death. It’s big and bold.”

This is a tale, Buntrock says, “that makes the Bible look subtle.”

Buntrock, who was nominated for a Tony Award for his direction of Sunday In The Park With George, and his creative team introduced their visions at Tuesday’s opening rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company’s production opening Sept. 30 in the Stage Theatre. When Buntrock and Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood began their work on the play, he said, they hit on their catchphrase instantly:

“We agreed that it needs to be really (messed) up,” Buntrock said.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

The DCPA is the first theatre company in North America to stage Nick Dear’s adaptation of  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was a global sensation at London’s National Theatre in 2011. The story of the creature who is given a troubled heart from a creator with a troubled heart came with an electrifying twist that will be twisted further in Denver: The lead actors (Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek, pictured above right) will alternate performances playing the roles of Frankenstein and The Creature.

Frankenstein Sam Buntrock

At the first rehearsal, Director Sam Buntrock flipped a coin to determine whether alternating actors Mark Junek or Sullivan Jones would read that day as The Creature or The Creator. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Here are five things we learned about the DCPA’s staging at the first gathering of cast and crew:

1 PerspectivesThe script was written like a screenplay. Nick Dear wrote this stage adaptation specifically for noted filmmaker Danny Boyle (Trainspotting). So, no surprise – he wrote it in much the same way he would have a film. “There are stage directions throughout the script that say, ‘Cut,’ or ‘Cut to …” said Buntrock. “It very much is a screenplay for the stage. That meant we needed to allow for a speed and a clarity that removed any sense of the paraphernalia or clutter that we have come to associate with Frankenstein.” Sherwood says the scenery also honors a cinematic approach “in the way that we are shifting perspective and pulling the naturalism out of the scenes.” For example, rather than merely dragging a boat onto the stage from a wing, he said, “We are trying to show you something that flips the way you experience it, and changes the way you see it.”

2 PerspectivesIt’s The Creature’s story now. A notable departure from Shelley’s source novel is how this adaptation focuses on The Creature – grotesque as he is, and yet childlike in his innocence. “I will continuously argue that this script is told completely from The Creature’s perspective,” Buntrock said. “The story begins with his birth. And he is born, essentially, as a grown-up baby.”

3 PerspectivesThe play is still about relationships. Specifically, dysfunctional relationships. “I love that this is a play with two people – a slave and a master, a creature and a creator – who go through a series of arguments and misfortunes that afflict all of us as a human race,” Buntrock said. “The central question is particularly relevant to me now: Even if you could recreate life, should you? Here we have someone who creates – or recreates – life, and he just doesn’t consider the consequences. So what if a person who manages to create life had no understanding of life himself, or of what it means to be alive?”

4 PerspectivesFor Kent Thompson, it’s personal. The DCPA’s Producing Artistic Director is a diabetic, so he watches keenly for new developments in genetic modification. “I am always reading for when we are going to figure out how to get stem cells to recreate insulin in my body,” Thompson said. “Over and over again, you find all these charlatans, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, promising they can sell you stem cells that will cure your diabetes. And they are con men. But what about somebody who actually can create life, but has absolutely no forethought of the consequences because he just can’t understand it on an emotional or a psychological or a cultural or a societal level?”

5 PerspectivesYou’ll see fire, and you’ll see rain. In every telling of the Frankenstein story, fire is a central plot point. That’s no spoiler. Here, there will be a cottage, “and we will set the door of that cottage on fire, literally,” Sherwood said. There is also a scene in a graveyard (again, no surprise), and it will not only rain onstage. “It’s just going to downpour,” Sherwood said.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center.


: Ticket information

Frankenstein• Sept. 30-Oct. 30
• Stage Theatre
• ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
• Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
• Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

Previous NewsCenter coverage:

Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
Introducing DCPA Theatre Company’s 2016-17 season artwork
Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
2016-17 season announcement

Frankenstein first rehearsal.

‘Frankenstein’ first rehearsal, above. Below: Charlie Korman, left, and Sullivan Jones (as The Creature.) Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.