Review: ‘Frankenstein’ is terrific and terrifying at Lyric Opera House. Don’t miss it.
Lauren Werneke, Chicago Tribune
October 13, 2023
The Joffrey Ballet’s “Frankenstein” has everything you want for the spooky season: a gothic setting, sci-fi wizardry, a dash of hedonism, death and destruction and gasp-worthy shock value. Throw in the Joffrey’s exquisite dancers, a world-renowned design team and the masterful late choreographer Liam Scarlett, and it’s not hard to see why missing “Frankenstein” during its two-weekend run at the Lyric Opera House is not an option.
To be clear, this “Frankenstein” is not the family-friendly, green-faced ogre of pop culture “Monster Mash” lore. Scarlett’s take is more closely aligned with Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, a fantastically macabre tale with shadows of the Greek god Prometheus and Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”
The story centers on three characters: Victor Frankenstein, (danced Thursday by José Pablo Castro Cuevas), Elizabeth (Amanda Assucena) and Creature (Jonathan Dole). Cuevas and Assucena handily capture the emotional arcs of their characters — and the demands of Scarlett’s unapologetically lavish choreography — most evident in their first and third act pas de deux. They begin as naive young lovers whose lives turn out to be horrifyingly grim. They are first shaken by tragedy as Frankenstein’s mother dies birthing her second son, William. The elder son departs for university, leaving his promised bride behind.
Even then, this blithe flirtation is still hopeful. Scarlett’s treatment of Lowell Liebermann’s lush original score has Assucena and Cuevas traversing the entire stage with apparent reckless abandon. Look closer. With more overhead lifts and finger turns than you can count, Cuevas shows his cards as a formidable partner and commanding soloist while managing the heavy psychology of a brilliant young scientist who manufactures a man — then has to live with the consequences of playing in God’s sandbox. Assucena remains the more optimistic of the two, and the couple’s fraught emotional dissonance is partly why, together, she and Cuevas are so intoxicating.
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Frankenstein runs now through October 22 at the Lyric Opera House. Purchase tickets here.