October rings in a host of seasonal events both related to autumn and to the end of month extravaganza of Halloween. The Berrie Center hosted an event which catered to the latter, Radio Theatre’s version of the ageless classic, “Frankenstein.” Radio Theatre is an award-winning performance group whose mission is to resurrect the lost art of the radio show. Inspired by historical events like Orson Welles’ infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast, which was based upon the science fiction work of H.G. Wells, the performers tell a story solely through the power of voice acting and sound effects.
In its 10th season, the show primarily frequents New York, but has been on tour to other places around the country displaying their hybrid breed of cinematic scripts, original scores and industry standard sound effects.
The quintet of actors dotted the stage in their designated locations; the lead, who played Victor Frankenstein, stood on a platform above the other performers. The distinctly unique voices of each actor helped the viewer to envision the necessary imagery that the words alone could not convey. The detailed sound design enhanced the action even further and enabled the audience to keep up with the familiar storyline. A spotlight would shine on the actor or actors who were involved in a given scene, which was crucial in orienting the viewer; also aiding this was the difference in music between the vignettes.
The collection of entertainers revitalized radio entertainment, which was prominent in a time where some imagination was still left up to the audience. The only visuals provided were lighting effects, occasional artificial fog and the gesticulations of the actors.
The story of “Frankenstein” was recanted to a wayward sea captain from Victor Frankenstein, who at this point in time had been chasing the monster for years in vengeful rage. The flashbacks from his mind told the story of his creation of the monster to the series of murders that led to the hatred between the misunderstood monster and his power-hungry creator. Although the original work of Mary Shelley was compressed into an hour and a half show, it did not devalue the material it was derived from; the pacing was increased which made for a more riveting performance.
This nontraditional retelling of a classic tale brought in a modest crowd, but the onlookers left Sharp Theater impressed and infused with holiday spirit.