James Ryan Gobuty
Let’s be honest folks. who doesn’t love a good puppet? Though Toronto is home to puppet legend Ronnie Burkett, there seems to be a severe shortage of avenues for people to indulge in some “grown-up” puppetry. That’s why I was so pleased to discover Eldritch Theatre and their approach of dealing in “themes of the horrific, supernatural and uncanny,” through their use of puppetry rolled in with some good old fashioned “magic.”
Frankenstein’s Boy takes place after the death of Doctor Frankenstein and his creature by the flames of the enraged townspeople. The show focuses on Doctor Frankenstein’s assistant Fry (Eric Woolfe), who had escaped the fire that killed his master, with the mad-scientist’s notebooks in hand.
Fry is forced to live in the gutters, toiling for food, while being bullied by the bigger hobos; until that is, the lovely Maggie (Kimwun Perehinec) saves him and gives him some scraps of food. Fry becomes enraptured by Maggie because “she gave (him) home fries!” and in his hubris, he uses his master’s nefarious notebook to try and rectify the wrongs in Maggie’s life.
Frankenstein’s Boy shows off the dark and hilarious mind of playwright and star of the show Eric Woolfe. The show contains the very best of the campiness of a B-horror movie combined with the uncanny whimsy of well used puppets. Woolfe makes great use of puppets big and small to create a lot of great depth and scale to the otherwise tiny performance space, and his self-referential approach adds a healthy dose of Brechtian humour.
Kimwun Perehinec also does an excellent job in her role as Maggie, perfectly embodying her transition from sweet and gentle to murderous monster. Perehinec displays an incredible amount of energy as she shares puppet duty with Woolfe, with the pair often switching responsibilities of operating the same roles.
But this play does not thrive on the novelty of puppets alone. Frankenstein’s Boy employed “Magic Mike” Segal as the magic consultant, a great addition to the production, as the classic illusionist tricks of making people disappear and such add a marvelously creepy dimension to the show.
This draws us to the excellent work by director Marjorie Chan, who was responsible for weaving together Woolfe’s script and puppets, Magic Mike’s illusions, and of course the spooky lighting design of Arun Srinivasan. You know you have a strong director when all of the different production elements of the play serve to conceptually mirror the themes of the script.
So if you need a break from that great Toronto tradition of Realist theatre this Halloween season, I highly suggest you check out Frankenstein’s Boy. It’s sure to give you both a trick and a treat.
Frankenstein’s Boy is playing at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen Street East, at 8pm until November 8, with a special late show on November 1. Tickets can be purchased online at www.eldrtichtheatre.ca or www.brownpapertickets.com. Seating is very limited.