MARY’S MONSTER presented by the Know Theatre of Cincinnati through Sept. 23. Click here for a synopsis and more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
Know Theatre of Cincinnati continues their 21st season themed “Fear Itself” with an original work written and performed by Maggie Lou Rader. MARY’S MONSTER discusses the life of novelist Mary Shelley, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus.
For her first solo script, Rader has chosen a daunting subject. While Shelley did not receive recognition for the bulk of her works while she was alive, today scholars have shown increasing interest in her complete body of literary output. Shelley’s personal life was as complicated as it was haunted by tragedy.
While I found the subject matter interesting, the script itself seemed to focus more heavily on her relationships than on her literary achievements. The complicated nature of these relationships caused some of the exposition to become heavy and confusing. Given the heaviness of the script, the lighter moments were few and far between, so even the addition of some gallows humor would be welcome. On a personal level, I didn’t find Shelley to be very likable
Director Jennifer Joplin makes good use of the set designed by Andrew J. Hungerford. They were times when it felt she had to work around the stage’s centerpiece as opposed to working with it. Even though the pacing was good, the show could use some editing, particularly as it builds to its conclusion. There were times when I felt Rader’s vocal delivery became a bit sing-songy and I would like to have heard a bit more emotion in her voice over the losses Shelley faced. A few of these tragic moments could have been given a bit more time and weight to them.
Overall, MARY’S MONSTER is an interesting, well-performed, but uneven portrait of a woman whose literary worth is still being explored and debated more than a century and a half later.
My rating: 4.25 out of 5.
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