February 17, 2020 at 7:48 pm PST | by John Paul King
Re-created ‘Frankenstein’ to take stage at the Wallis

L-R: Max Baumgarten (Creature) and Kila Packett (Victor Frankenstein) in Four Larks’ “Frankenstein,” premiering at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts on February 19 (Photo by Kevin Parry).

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is about to unleash a monster in Beverly Hills.

The World Premiere production of “Frankenstein,’ created by the renowned LA performance troupe Four Larks after the classic novel by Mary Shelley, will officially open in the Center’s Lovelace Studio Theatre on Wednesday, February 19. Commissioned by the Wallis, it promises to be “an exuberant amalgamation of dynamic physical theatre, live music and experiential design,” according to press materials, sourced predominantly from Shelley’s original work and awakening new questions about moral responsibility for a contemporary generation.

Featuring a cast of twelve actor/musicians, the show is directed, created, staged and composed by Four Larks’ Mat Sweeney with, design and choreography by Sebastian Peters-Lazaro, the show’s creative producer; the two collaborated with Jesse Rasmussen to create this unusual adaptation, which explores Shelley’s iconic story through the lens of Four Larks’ trademark combination of immersive design, innovative orchestration, and dynamic choreography, to create a thrilling, experiential post-modern-flavored theatrical adventure that spotlights the dangers of unregulated technology.

Actor Lukas Papenfusscline is one of an ensemble of twelve breathing life into Four Larks “Frankenstein,” premiering at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts on February 19 (Photo courtesy of the actor).

According to cast member Lukas Papenfusscline, it’s nothing like the “Frankenstein” you grew up with.

“We worked on throwing away a lot of the cultural baggage that comes with the story,” says the actor. “The younger generation has engaged with it primarily in the movies, which have such coded images, and language, and movement cycles. We’ve really tried to get away from all that.”

The resulting production is built on text taken directly from the novel, grafting in additional material from other sources and incorporating the author directly into the story, as a character, to interact with her own creations; as the play progresses, it travels through time, taking us from the dawn of the Industrial Revolution that was the backdrop for the original work and bringing us into the technology-obsessed, climate-disrupted world of today.

“We’re also queering the story in a number of ways,” says Papenfusscline. “Coming at this production as a queer person, I’ve been really intrigued by the theme of patriarchy, and how that kind of unchecked dominance leads to destruction. We’re getting a lot of art these days that is very anti-establishment, very anti-‘white man’s world,’ anti-white supremacy. I don’t think that’s terribly new, but the idea that that attitude is linked in with colonialism and invading and taking charge of things, is really interesting to me. And being able to track that through gesture and music and text and movement is a really powerful thing.”

Audiences will be able to share that power when “Frankenstein” is onstage at the Wallis from February 19 – March 1. For schedule and ticket information, visit the Wallis’ website.

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