You won’t find an imitation of Boris Karloff in “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” What you will find in this presentation by the Ensemble for the Romantic Century is the monster of Shelley’s imagination danced sympathetically and superbly by the ballet star Robert Fairchild.
Eva Wolf has written the play that entwines Shelley’s reminiscences about her life from her actual writings with the story that has endured in so many forms over the years. Fairchild, who also did the choreography, portrays the monster through dance as an agonized creature unable to help being destructive. His behavior is beyond his control in keeping with the concept of his having been artificially created, not naturally born.
In a style typical of what this company does, music is integrated into the production, with mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann singing impressively to classical works by celebrated composers, and an ensemble of talented musicians providing the accompaniment.
Mia Vallet plays Shelley, who is bereaved at the deaths of her children and the drowning of her husband, revealing the emotional toll it has taken on her. But the spoken passages are the weakest aspect of the production, as they come across as pale and inferior to the caliber of what we experience visually.
Lighting designer Beverly Emmons and set designer Vanessa James combine to provide an electrifying display in the creation of the monster. It would seem at the outset that the story will follow the more traditional interpretations. That makes the sympathetic portrayal of the monster all the more surprising and effective.
The overall direction is by Donald T. Sanders, but it is the dancing of Fairchild and the balletic conception of the creature that gives the production its chief distinction. Other characters are portrayed by Shiv Ajay, Peyton Lusk, Avey Noble, Rocco Sisto and Paul Wesley. The musicians are Kemp Jernigan, Steven Lin and Parker Ramsay.
The production is certainly highly unusual in the pantheon of “Frankenstein” endeavors, and despite the monster’s violent behavior, the emphasis is on the beauty of the production rather than on horror. At the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed December 28, 2017.