If your list of things a Fringe show can do doesn’t include “scare the pants off you,” allow me to introduce you to Victor Frankenstein, tortured protagonist of Tyler Olsen’s creepy show. (I should disclose right off the bat that Olsen and other members of the show’s creative team are personal friends of mine, so I won’t pretend to offer a dispassionate opinion. Please regard this post not as a review, but simply as a description.)
This Frankenstein was first brought to life for last year’s Twin Cities Horror Festival, in an ambitious show that’s been substantially reworked for the streamlined (but still scary) production that’s now playing in this year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival. Live Action Set’s Joanna Harmon and Noah Bremer both feature in the cast of this production, which has recently been on tour and is as tight as a drum.
It takes a lot of practice to make perfect in executing this staging concept, in which almost all illumination is provided by hand-held lights that are silently traded among cast members—so you never now exactly who’s behind that beam shining in your face. It’s a means of depicting the tumbling thoughts of Victor Frankenstein (Miles Duffey), who flashes back to his childhood as he does what he needs to do to bring his undead masterpiece (Bremer) to life.
Although the previous version of this show drew heavily on interviews with war veterans to explore issues of trauma and identity, that resonance is more implicit than explicit in the Fringe version, which centers squarely on the confused personal history of young Frankenstein. Lovers both male (Jay Kistler) and female (Joanna Harmon) join Frankenstein at a cabin in the woods, where they’re looking for catharsis but instead find crisis—with a hulking Garrett Vollmer standing in for Igor.
Given the various constraints that Fringe producers face, they rarely go for gore, but Olsen—a Horror Fest vet, who’s collaborated with Bremer and Harmon on the Soap Factory’s recent year of Crime and Punishment—is fully ready to go there. Between the squirting squibs and the things that go bump in the dark, it’s more than Intermedia Arts’ air conditioning that will give you chills in this satisfyingly scary show.