It's not the ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night that make
"The Life of Death"
Clive Barker is the spiritual father of WildClaw Theatre — company founder Charley Sherman made his bones, so to speak, by adapting Barker's "In the Flesh" 20 years ago for the old Organic Theatre. But the Grand Guignol excess associated with Barker's cinematic output — notably "Hellraiser" and
In fact, most of the first act of director Carolyn Klein's staging feels like a triumph of atmosphere over story — if by "atmosphere," one means the slo-mo melancholia of an antidepressant commercial. But if you hang in with it, the show delivers some jolting turns and a few truly fine performances after the initial languor.
Elaine Rider (Casey Cunningham) is a young Londoner who has recently survived a complicated
When Elaine meets the mysterious Kavanagh (Steve Herson) at a soon-to-be-demolished church, her mood lightens — even as the rest of the city seems to be turning into
Cunningham acquits herself well with a tough assignment (how do you play listlessness without putting everyone to sleep?), and her transformation to a robust and ravenous woman in the second act is handled with subtle nuance. The production design, especially
You'll probably figure out the climax before arriving there, but Barker does raise some smart questions about how we face the end of our days, and Sherman's script does a fairly good job at intertwining the mundane anxieties and big cataclysms lingering in our psyches.
Through Nov. 4, Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph St.; $25 at 312-742-8497 or wildclawtheatre.com
The line between life and death and what happens to hubristic humans who violate that boundary figures prominently in "Frankenstein." But Bo List's adaptation of Mary Shelley's monster tale is a rather lifeless affair, at least as presented in director Terry McCabe's staging for City Lit.
Several key plot points, such as the offstage death-by-hanging of Victor Frankenstein's mentor, Dr. Waldman are dealt with in a far too matter-of-fact manner. Indeed, Ed Krystosek's portrayal of Victor is so wooden that one wonders if it is a deliberate choice to pit the human doctor without a functioning heart against his reanimated-and-then-rejected creation, who longs for nothing but human companionship.
If the pacing weren't so lugubrious throughout, that might work — but Krystosek's Victor isn't passionate enough as either villain or protagonist to hold our interest. As it is, the show mostly comes to life because of Mark Pracht's sharply calibrated turn as the creature. By far the most affecting moments take place between Pracht and Eustace Allen as De Lacey, the kindly blind man who takes the creature in. Allen also makes his brief turn as Waldman so interesting that I wished the show were about him instead of Victor. The technical bells and whistles of the reanimation scene overpower the text as surely as Pracht's creature overpowers his onstage nemesis.
Through Nov. 4, City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.; $28.50 at 773-293-3682 or citylit.org