The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

“Frankenstein”: A beautiful and gothic ballet

Frankenstein%3A+A+beautiful+and+gothic+ballet
Yù Yù Blue

From “Anna Karenina” to “Of Mice and Men” and everything in between, the Joffrey Ballet has a history of looking into classic literature to find dramatic, often heartbreaking stories to bring to life through dance. Their latest production, “Frankenstein,” continues this trend, combining gothic Romantic sensibilities with body horror to bring the classic science fiction story to life. Though the narrative frustratingly sidelines Frankenstein’s creature far too frequently, Joffrey’s “Frankenstein” boasts a keen eye for aesthetics and a capable cast who elevate what might have otherwise been one of the ballet’s more middling productions.

Starring Dylan Gutierrez, Gayeon Jung and Stefan Goncalvez, “Frankenstein” is based on Mary Shelley’s classic novel. The story follows Victor Frankenstein (Gutierrez), a handsome young scientist who reluctantly leaves home and his childhood love, Elizabeth, after the tragic death of his mother. Stricken by grief but determined to make a name for himself, Victor throws himself into discovering the key to conquering death and, in doing so, brings to life an unsettling, deformed being simply called “The Creature.” Though the beast is of Frankenstein’s own creation, he is horrified by what he made and shunned the Creature, sending the fledgling life form on a murderous spree that ends up costing Victor the lives of his loved ones. 

For most patrons, the biggest hurdle to get past with “Frankenstein” is its runtime at a whopping two hours and 45 minutes. The production has not one but two intermissions to break up the lengthy performance. Thankfully though, artistic director Ashley Wheather makes the nearly three-hour affair feel breezy and remarkably fast-paced, primarily due to the sheer speed at which the narrative moves. 

Story-wise, “Frankenstein” follows very closely to the original novel, which means that a vast chunk of the runtime is spent exploring the romance between Victor and his adoptive sister Elizabeth (Jung). Certainly, Victor and Elizabeth make for an endearing pair (a clever number in act one sees a childhood version of Victor and Elizabeth dancing alongside their adult selves) and Jung, in particular, brings a luminous, instantly endearing quality to Elizabeth that makes her a delightful presence whenever she is onstage.

Caught up in the romance and interpersonal drama of Elizabeth and Victor, Joffrey’s “Frankenstein” lets its star player fall to the wayside: the Creature. If last year’s “Little Mermaid” proved anything, it is that Joffrey excels in bringing stories of fantastical, inhuman creatures to the stage, and Frankenstein’s monster is no exception.

As the Creature, Goncalvez brings a remarkable duality to role-playing a terrifying, violent abomination of a creature while never letting the audience forget that this is an innocent, newly-created soul whose violence stems from Victor’s cruelty and neglect. Though the Creature’s journey from birth to swearing revenge does feel a little rushed, there is an undeniable emotional potency to Goncalvez’s performance that makes such a drastic change. It lends some much-needed depth and moral murkiness to the entire production.

Opposite Goncalvez’s coltish creature is Gutierrez’s Victor, who is at times a frustrating protagonist whose tragedy-seeped life unravels at the seams after his greatest scientific achievement. Goncalvez brings a solid, almost stoic presence to Victor that makes him difficult to root for but he serves as a potent foil to the Creature, cold and world-weary in opposition to the ironically innocent beast. Their climactic act three duet is the highlight of the entire production, not just because of the spectacle of the lifts and athleticism but because of the sheer emotionality inherent in the number.

Complete with resplendent, or in the case of the creature, deeply unsettling, costuming and steampunk-inspired scenic design “Frankenstein” at the Joffrey Ballet is the company at its aesthetically strongest. Though the narrative may feel remarkably romance-oriented for such a famous science fiction story, performances from Goncalvez and Gutierrez make “Frankenstein” yet another beautiful heartbreak at the ballet.

More to Discover