nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
October 29, 2009
I love a good scare this time of year. The Figment Theatre Company gives you three tales of monsters and mayhem in its timely offering Monster Uprising. The young theatre troupe has obviously worked overtime with most of the members pulling multiple duties to craft the production from soup to nuts (and these pieces most certainly are).
This small-scale yet ambitious multimedia production has some enjoyable elements but is generally sloppy and suffers from overlong writing and a dearth of consistent acting.
Frankenstein vs. Frankenstein vs. Godzilla (written by James DiGiovana, directed by Evelyn Sullivan) sets up a very interesting premise: a modern day Dr. Frankenstein is on the brink of animating his monster when he's interrupted for the umpteenth time by his noble prize-winning wife pining for meaningful communication. They wrangle about bruised egos, unappreciated feelings, and a marriage that has gradually cooled. All this while the mighty Godzilla wreaks havoc around them.
DiGiovana has written a clever piece about the clash of man and science, putting an intelligent twist on Mary Shelley's original work. Setting up a domestic quarrel amid the traditional conventions of the monster movie genre is surely fun. The latter portion of the one act meanders, however, as the characters literally flee from Godzilla. The piece plays more like an overextended comedy sketch primarily due to clunky execution. Blocking is slapdash and the acting uninspired. The actors don't have to play the reality of being in the presence of multiple monsters, but they do have to play the reality of a crumbling marriage.
There are definitely some funny moments here (in particular, with regard to an emotionally reticent Frankenstein's monster). The projections of an animated Godzilla on the rampage brightly complement the piece. Also of merit are the sound effects, including the jolting iconic shrieks from the monster lizard.
Third Shift (written by Epidiah Ravachol, directed by Jason Ellis) yearns to explore comparative curses (life, marriage, work). A gruff factory worker invites his co-worker and new wife to his mysterious basement apartment. It's an amusing premise, the characters are drawn well, and the dialogue is sharp. Life in a dead-end job and a bad marriage isn't all that bad unless, of course, you're immortal. The piece profits from a stronger emotional commitment from the actors. The denouement, however, is somewhat unsatisfying.
Transylvania is for Lovers (written by Jason Ellis, directed by Christine Ann Sullivan) is the final and longest piece of the program. Clearly the highlight of the entire production is the short silent movie that proceeds the live action in this piece. Moody, dark, and an excellent facsimile of a silent horror film, there are some genuine frights in this tightly edited preamble. And it's actually a bit gory. (Note: there are some opening paragraphs that appear briefly on the screen before the film begins that are unfortunately too small to be read.) The film sets up the story of an American tourist who awakens in a gingerbread house and is held captive by a bizarre old witch.
The piece is sorely in need of editing but has some nice creative surprises, and the characters meld together to create one ridiculously atypical dysfunctional family. The lighting and various sound effects are top notch.
Overall, this program will benefit from a tighter arrangement with shorter setup time between pieces. All three plays present an intriguing twist on the monster/horror genre, and the three writers are all commendably on the same page. Workshopping the pieces to tighten the narrative and direction will help realize the potential of the material.