;Frankenstein, ;the Modern Prometheus

;Jean-Louis Barrault, the great French actor, director and impresario, once said that one actor alone on a stage is enough to create theater — if necessary, total theater. Rarely has this dictum been more gratifyingly confirmed than in the Orlando Shakespeare Festival's current production of Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus, a theatrical adaptation of Mary Shelley's supernatural novel of scientific ambition gone awry.; In this impressive and literate stage version of the Gothic yarn, adapted by Festival artistic director Jim Helsinger, only one actor, Steve Patterson, appears on stage to tell the totality of the sad and distressing story of vanity and remorse. And he does so through the minds, bodies and souls of its three main characters — the ambitious seafarer and would-be discoverer Capt. Robert Walton; the proud and compulsive, but ultimately contrite and broken scientist, Victor Frankenstein; and, most magnificently, the lonely and despised monster, a childishly sympathetic and innocent being made from the rotting vestiges of charnel house corpses and graveyard remains. ; Moving briskly from one deft portrayal to another, Patterson weaves this tale-within-a-tale-within-a-tale with a control that is nothing short of masterful. Director April Dawn Gladu has inspired him to shape exceedingly well-drawn interpretations, combining physical and vocal renderings that are both precise and moving. And while his portraits of the story's smaller roles offer comic relief, it's his commanding renditions of the play's three protagonists that fill the evening with its dazzling theatrical power. It's an acting tour de force that absolutely should not be missed.; Gladu has also coaxed the best from her design team, who provide a gloomily atmospheric environment in which to present this Halloween season's most beguiling saga. Bob Phillips' set of spars, masts, chains, netting, cargo boxes and tattered pieces of sail makes for a chilling and utterly desolate evocation of a frozen and unforgiving seascape. Eric Haugen has never painted a more artful display of light, color and shadow, altering the play's changing moods and temperatures with style and effectiveness. Sound designer James Cleveland has concocted a disturbingly beautiful soundtrack filled with somber musical motifs atop the resonance of Arctic storms and churning seas.; While the premise of Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus, is hopelessly unconvincing — two creatures, one human and one profane, chasing one another on sleds across the floes of an ice-covered wasteland — the combined effect of Shelley's imaginative narrative, Helsinger's erudite adaptation, Gladu's perceptive direction and Patterson's phenomenal performance is one of total belief and total immersion in the doomed lives of its damned characters. It is a true experience of total theater. Barrault would have been proud. (7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, through Nov. 26 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St.; $35; 407-447-1700)


;;— Al Krulick

;;The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare;Hot on the heels of Fourplay, SAK Comedy Lab presents further proof that there's more to improv than sketch comedy. It's April 23, 1616, the Bard has just expired, and a troupe of actors must cobble together a show. Thus begins The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare, a daring and delightful experiment in fusing pentameter with long-form improvisation. Bear with creator/director David Charles as he painfully wheedles suggestions from the audience; when people are stumped by "name an adjective" I weep for Florida's education system. These are Mad-Libbed together into a vaguely familiar plot full of the requisite star-crossed lovers and mistaken identities.

;; On the night I attended, the lost classic "Chester and Juliet" featured a hirsute bride, a squirrel-eating hermit and a ballad about a grotesque kangaroo. Charles and his rotating cast of players aren't simply peppering their speech with gratuitous "ere"s and "anon"s; they're performing an iambic improv high-wire act. Much of the magic is in the comically labored tying together of the random threads thrown out by the audience, which belies a masterful grasp of Shakespearean convention and construction. Able anachronistic assistance comes from keyboardist David Asher Brown, who underscores emotive Italian messengers with a harpsichord rendition of the Super Mario theme. The only question? Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous parking, or to take the Lymmo against a sea of Magic fans. (10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 16; 2 p.m. Sundays in November at the SAK Comedy Lab, 380 W. Amelia St.; $15; 407-648-0001)


;;— Seth Kubersky

;;Little Shop of Horrors

;;Plants and puppies have something in common: They start out so cute, but eventually they take over the house and emit … an odor. Nebbish Seymour (Eddy Coppens) breeds a special Venus flytrap while pining for cute Audrey (Sam Brown), and names it after her — "Audrey II." Audrey I's vicious boyfriend Orin (Steven Pugh) would just as soon give Seymour a root canal as beat him up, but when Audrey II makes Seymour a pop star, he sacrifices all the friends he has. Can this nice Jewish boy find love when everyone he knows has been mulched by Audrey II?

;; Based on one of the lowest-budget movies of all time, this story of human sacrifice and dental hygiene is robust. Steven Pugh steals the show as gassed-up dentist Orin, but Sam Brown's squeaky-voiced and vulnerable Audrey I made it a close race. While Coppens is suitably mild as Seymour, that mildness only vaguely outshines the lackluster vocals of Joe Schmerler as flower-shop owner Mushnik. Wrapped around the main action is a buxom Greek chorus of singers with barely contained boobs: Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette (Sacha Comrie, Katie Muise and Taisha Smith). The other star of the show was the non-Muppet puppet Audrey II, ably manipulated by Dan Oser and Joe Irwin. This silly and enjoyable evening has rough spots, but the good outweighs the bad. Just floss before you enter the theater. (8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 4; Theatre Downtown, 2113 N. Orange Ave.; $18; 407-841-0083)


;;— Al Pergande



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