Matthews' 'Frank' alienates audience with ambiguity

November 01, 1991|By J. Wynn Rousuck

A Frankenstein show might seem a conventional choice at Halloween time. But even by the Theatre Project's skewed standards, there is nothing conventional about Michael Matthews' eccentric, eclectic performance piece, "Frank."

An expatriate American who has lived in the Netherlands for the past eight years, Mr. Matthews portrays a modernized, idiosyncratic version of Frankenstein's monster, which he claims was inspired not only by the Mary Shelley novel, but by sources as diverse as Gertrude Stein and Malcolm X.

For most of the 75-minute show, Mr. Matthews wears what appears to be a black leather ski mask and recites poetry, long lists of seemingly random dates and popular song lyrics, interspersed with snippets of the monster's own story.

Although he exhibits certain monster-like movements -- his right arm involuntarily jerks away from his body, he shakes and wheezes, and every now and then he gives his jaw a shove to get his gravelly voice back in gear -- Mr. Matthews delivers much of his show lecture-style. The chief exception comes after he removes his mask and begins addressing someone named Lucy.

His bride, you assume? Wrong. According to the performer, this is a reference to the late Lucille Ball. And why not? There's a little of everything else in this production.

The monster's bride does make an appearance in the last 15 minutes, however. Portrayed by Nancy Alfaro, she wears a green sequined evening gown and matching tulle veil, and she also spouts long lists of dates. No wonder she announces: "I was made for him."

But in the end, what's it all about, Frankie? Well, the show seems to saying something about being an outsider and being different; there are also references to the sick, homeless and destitute. The outsider theme is undoubtedly intended to strike a common chord. After all, who hasn't felt different at one time or another?

Probably not this different, though. More than anything else, "Frank" is peculiar; it's not really a lecture, not really a play, not really dance (though there's a little of that). It's not even scary; mostly it's grim. And it's very difficult to connect with. At one point the monster asks, "Not who, but what was I?" Good question.

'Frank'

When: Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; matinees Sundays at 3 p.m. Through Nov. 10.

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

Tickets: $10-$15.

Call: 752-8558.

... **

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