Mind over Matter

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Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 12:00 am

If you are coming to next week’s Ralston High School drama production of “Frankenstein” expecting a hulking, moaning homunculus with arms extended and a stiff gait, prepare to be disappointed.

Instead of the popularized movie version of the re-animated monster, the actors and director are taking a page from the source material of the legend, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein,” which is much more psychological thriller than gorefest.

In short: “Don’t expect the flat head and bolts in the neck,” RHS drama director Todd Uhrmacher said.

As with the novel, RHS’s stage “Frankenstein” will focus on the hubris of Victor Frankenstein (played by senior Ben Allgire), the Swiss scientist who patches together the unnamed creature (played by junior Pat Swinarski) from various body parts he’s either taken from the dead or manufactured himself.

Rather than rejoicing when his experiment succeeds, Frankenstein is horrified at the sight of the creature and flees, leaving the “newborn” to fend for itself, with deadly consequences for Frankenstein’s nearest and dearest.

Swinarski said despite the creature’s homicidal spree, he’s still a sympathetic character, a victim of circumstance in being abandoned by his parent figure.

“I think you feel very sorry for him after awhile,” Swinarski said. “Even the people the creature loves, the one person who was kind to him and gave him the best times of his life, he ends up hurting her.”

And while the body count adds up onstage, the true horror, Allgire said, is ultimately found within.

Frankenstein’s sometimes detrimental reliance on the rational and the scientific to explain all phenomena, his abandonment of the creature, and his unwillingness to own up to the horrors he unleashes as a result of that abandonment, makes for a dangerous combination.

“Victor Frankenstein, he has a god complex, but he’s not maniacal,” he said.

“It’s different than that, more deep-seated. It’s also different than any role I’ve ever played, but I like it. I feel more at home in the drama, when we’re challenging people to look inside themselves and I think that’s what this role and this play do.”

Despite Frankenstein’s neglect, the creature, albeit starting slowly, is ultimately able to master speech and apprehend human emotion. But given poor examples of social interaction and brutalized and marginalized because of his appearance, he ultimately mirrors the brutality he witnesses.

The violence onstage is quaint by today’s standards, the actors said. Instead, the focus is on the sometimes little, sometimes large psychological damages we can all inflict, even unintentionally. Shelley’s novel is alternatively titled “The Modern Prometheus,” an allusion Allgire said is well-placed.

“The show talks a lot about the fire of Prometheus,” he said. “What defines the power of gods and who we are as people in relation to that power? In that way, it’s more of a philosophical statement than a gory, bloody show.”

In fact, Uhrmacher said, the focus on that psychological element and the odd ends devised for those unfortunate characters means there’s not a single drop of blood to be had in the course of the action.

Bringing “Frankenstein” to the mainstage at the Ralston Performing Arts Centre keeps with a burgeoning tradition at RHS of staging a spooky play during the Halloween season.

“It’s a good way to spend a dark and stormy night,” Swinarski said. “That opening night is on Halloween is about perfect.”

Performances for “Frankenstein” are scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 31, Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. A Sunday matinee will take place at 2 p.m. on Nov. 3.

The Nov. 1 performance may be canceled due to the strong possibility of a playoff game for the RHS football team. Uhrmacher said he will await the schedule from the Nebraska School Activities Association before making a final decision.

Tickets will be $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. For ticketing information or to make reservations, call the RHS box office at 402-898-3545. Due to the horror nature of the play, parental guidance is recommended for young children.

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