The Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival has hit its stride, and a new play from Northern Ireland at 59E59 Theaters in Manhattan is a shining example of the great work the annual festival now showcases.
"Frankenstein's Monster Is Drunk (And The Sheep Have All Jumped The Fences)," written and directed by Zoe Seaton, is based on the unforgettable short story by Owen Booth and you should book your tickets now.
The premise is as fun as the play; after his career in Hollywood has ended in disillusion, the famous monster throws himself into a glacier and stays there in suspended animation until one day in 1946 when he's finally dug out by some concerned villagers.
What he doesn't expect is to meet the spirited woman who will soon become his wife. As played by Nicky Harley, this woman is one of the most mythic and yet also wholly human characters I have ever seen on a stage. She's forthright, romantic, physical, affectionate, and more than a match for this lonely monster who never expected to find love, never mind a once-in-a-century love like this one.
In her no-nonsense cardigan, skirt, and rustic boots, The Monster's Wife – as she is called – is not the sort of woman to let an opportunity pass her by and it's fun to watch Harley inhabit this force of nature character so evocatively, and often very movingly.
As Frankenstein, actor Rhodri Lewis represents the golden age of Hollywood ideal casting. He captures the horror, humor, and pathos of his immortal character's condition, which slowly reveals itself as the story unfolds.
"Frankenstein's Monster Is Drunk" is about the fate of love, but as told by two misfits or monsters, with all the added insight that implies.
Narrated by actor Chris Robinson, who brings a lovely nuanced awareness to the proceedings from the opening scene, he's aided by fellow gifted narrator Vickey Allen. Both of them are pitch-perfect playing the villagers and gawkers the monster couple are often plagued with.
This is the first time in its over 30-year history that Big Telly, the award-winning theatre company based in Portstewart, Co Antrim, has brought a production to New York, thanks to the efforts of Origin. It's a development to be celebrated because the company's brand of highly physical theatre reminds us that there are many ways to tell a compelling story and that images can be every bit as evocative and unforgettable as words.
The story of "Frankenstein's Monster Is Drunk" is pure hokum, but it allows us to contemplate a long, eventful, sexy, and often deliriously happy marriage, which in itself is probably worth the price of admission.
Allen and Robison are delightful to watch as the villagers who are terrified of their weirdest two inhabitants, reminding us of the ways in which Ireland, north and south, have found ways to isolate and silence its most challenging characters, either through mass ignoring them or treating them as insuperably other.
But the monster and his wife make a world and have no need for outside approval. In fact, the wife is enterprising and inspired and she helps build a happy life for them in ways that feel organic, oddly involving, and all too recognizably human.
Yes, Frankenstein may be composed of the dead limbs and brains of multiple corpses, but he's also thoughtful, protective, kind, and unmistakably randy. Finding the humanity in the monster – and behind that, his capacity to love and be loved - is part of the discovery of the delightful, diverting show.
Every actor in this four-person production works carefully together to tell the monster's story and this kind of all-too-rare concentration and focus in itself is worth the ticket price.
But "Frankenstein's Monster Is Drunk" is also by turns hilarious and heartbreaking and I did not expect to be so moved by the portrait of a long, happy marriage or the way its memory lifted and buoyed a once lost – but now found and forever altered – soul.
"Frankenstein's Monster Is Drunk (And The Sheep Have All Jumped The Fences)" is now playing at the 59E59 Theaters. For tickets call 646-892-7999.