McCarter Theatre Center brings ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’ to life

Cordelia Dewdney, left, and Keith D. Gallagher star in McCarter Theatre Center's production of "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."PHOTO COURTESY OF LIZ LAUREN
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Cordelia Dewdney, left, and Keith D. Gallagher star in McCarter Theatre Center's production of "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."PHOTO COURTESY OF LIZ LAUREN

Direct from its acclaimed world-premiere run in Chicago, Lookingglass Theatre Company returns to McCarter with a galvanic adaptation of Shelley’s undying story, running from Oct. 15 through Nov. 3.

An eerie evening of ghost stories crackles to life as Mary Shelley spins her tale of love, horror, power and unholy experimentation. This visceral new adaptation from Lookingglass Theatre Company brings together inventive staging, acrobatics and a unique in-the-round experience to McCarter Theatre Center’s Matthews Stage in Princeton.

Mary Shelley herself (played by Cordelia Dewdney) rests at the core of Catlin’s bold theatrical adaptation. Ahead of her time in more ways than one, the author was only eighteen when she conceived of “Frankenstein.” Shelley experiences a lifetime of love and passion, of tragedy and loss, all of which unfolds on page and stage as her characters navigate a new age of science and unintended consequences. Two hundred years later, this cautionary tale looms large as we grapple with the ramifications of synthetic biology, AI, and ever-invasive algorithms.

“I’m fascinated by the blur between Mary Shelley’s story of creation, rejection, and destruction and her own life of love, loss, and abandonment. How does the human heart survive desolation and misery?” Director and adaptor David Catlin said. “This is a story that continues to unsettle us.”

McCarter Theatre Center Artistic Director and Resident Playwright Emily Mann said, “When I heard that David Catlin was adapting “Frankenstein” through the lens of Mary Shelley’s life and experience, my heart started to pound because it was such an exciting idea. The artistry of Lookingglass plus the genius of Mary Shelley seemed to me to be a perfect marriage. I believe that this story’s extraordinary power will blow the roof off of this theater.”

The cast includes Walter Briggs (Percy Bysshe Shelley), Debo Balogun (Dr. John Polidori), Cordelia Dewdney (Mary Shelley), Keith D. Gallagher (Lord Byron) and Amanda Raquel Martinez (Claire Clairmont). All are making their McCarter Theatre Center debuts.

The creative team includes Daniel Ostling (scenic design), Sully Ratke (costume design), William C. Kirkham (lighting design), Rick Sims (sound design/composition) and Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi (circus and movement design).

About the Artists
David Catlin (Adaptation and Direction) is a founding member, ensemble member, actor, writer, director and former Artistic Director of Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago. Previous McCarter directing/writing credit: “Lookingglass Alice.” Recent direction and/or adaptation credits include: “Moby Dick,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “The Little Prince” and “Icarus.” David is an Artistic Associate with Actors Gymnasium and serves on the acting faculty at Northwestern University.

Debo Balogun (Dr. John Polidori) is an actor/poet from Chicago, IL and is thrilled to be making his McCarter and regional theatre debut. Chicago theatre credits: “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” (Lookingglass Theatre Company); “Red Rex,” “Zurich” (Steep Theatre Company); “You Can’t Take It With You”; “Fair Maid of the West” (Oak Park Festival Theatre); “Mary’s Wedding” (First Folio Theatre); “Moon Man Walk” (Definition Theatre Company); and “Bobby Pin Girls” (Nothing Without a Company). Debo is an Artistic Associate with Oak Park Festival Theatre and is proudly represented by Gray Talent Group.

Walter Briggs (Percy Bysshe Shelley) is making his McCarter debut.  He is an artistic associate of Lookingglass and has appeared in their productions of “Act(s) of God,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Seas,” “Moby Dick,” “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” and “The North China Lover.”

Cordelia Dewdney
(Mary Shelley) is overjoyed to be at McCarter and back on the East Coast where she grew up. Previous credits include “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” “Hard Times,” and “Moby Dick” at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago. She has toured with “Moby Dick” to South Coast Repertory, Arena Stage and the Alliance Theatre, and has worked with the Shakespeare Project of Chicago. Television and Film credits include “Chicago Med.” Cordelia is a graduate from Northwestern University where she studied Theatre and English Literature.

Keith D. Gallagher (Lord Byron) McCarter debut. Chicago: “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” “Beyond Caring” (Lookingglass Theatre Company); “Breach” (Victory Gardens); “Mary Page Marlowe,” “Marie Antoinette “(Steppenwolf Theatre Company); “The Gospel of Franklin,” “Man In Love” (Steppenwolf First Look); “Awake and Sing,” “Lieutenant of Inishmore” (Northlight Theatre); “Shining City” (Goodman); “Arcadia” (Court Theatre); The Real Thing (Remy Bumppo); Tracks (TUTA). TV: “Chicago Med,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire,” “Empire.” Film: “Orders.”

Amanda Raquel Martinez (Claire Claremont) is grateful to make her McCarter debut. She last worked with Lookingglass Theatre on “Big Lake, Big City.” A New York City native, she has performed at HERE Arts Center and various music venues around NYC.

Lookingglass Theatre Company
Inventive. Collaborative. Transformative. Lookingglass Theatre Company, recipient of the 2011 Regional Theatre Tony Award, was founded in 1988 by eight Northwestern University students. Now in its 32nd Season, Lookingglass is home to a multi-disciplined ensemble of artists who create story-centered theatrical work that is physical, aurally rich and visually metaphoric. The Company has staged 69 world premieres and produced work all across the United States. Lookingglass continues to expand its artistic, financial, and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Artistic Director Heidi Stillman, Executive Director Rachel L. Fink, Producing Director Philip R. Smith, Director of Community Engagement Andrew White, General Manager Michele Anderson, a 24-member artistic ensemble, 23 artistic associates, an administrative staff, and a dedicated board of directors. For more, visit lookingglasstheatre.org.

McCarter Theatre Center

Under the leadership of award-winning playwright and Artistic Director Emily Mann, Managing Director Michael S. Rosenberg and Special Programming Director William W. Lockwood, McCarter’s mission is to create world-class theater and present the finest artists for the engagement, education, and entertainment of the community. Winner of the 1994 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, world premieres include Christopher Durang’s”Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (2013 Tony – Best Play); Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “The Brother/Sister Plays”;  Emily Mann’s “Having Our Say”; and Danai Gurira’s “The Convert.” McCarter brings artists from around the world to Princeton, New Jersey including Rhiannon Giddens, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Hiromi and more. Education and outreach efforts serve tens of thousands through student matinees, in-school residencies, and adult classes. More at mccarter.org.