The Strange and Terrible True Story of Pinocchio as Told By Frankenstein's Monster Review - Not for Children



Robert Fenton and an unlucky cricket

The Strange and Terrible True Tale of Pinocchio (The Wooden Boy) As Told By Frankenstein’s Monster  (The Wretched Creature) is one dark comedy.  Greg Allen, the creative genius behind Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (which has been playing every week in the Andersonville neighborhood since 1988 and can now also be seen in New York), does not offer a very likeable wooden boy.  He also does not wish or expect many families to attend the performance.  As if to set this clear from the start, a very sinister Wretched Creature (Frankenstein is the name of his father; the creature is unnamed) is quick to tell the audience “If there are children here they should get the f*** out!”  Greg Allen’s choice in narrator (and his liberal use of the f word) is just one of many surprises in this supposedly true to life tale of Pinocchio.  It should be noted that this retelling of the story is actually much closer to author’s Carlo Collodi’s 1882 novel than any Disney cartoon.  There are recognizable Disney pieces throughout the performance.  In Greg Allen’s hands, however, they are often mutilated into gruesome spectacles.  The Blue Fairy, for example, is initially introduced here as a dead girl with blue hair waiting for a coffin to take her home.  At another time dead kittens (stuffed animals) fall from the ceiling and Pinocchio is quick to snuff out an especially verbose cricket.

Robert Fenton and Guy Massey

If this sounds too dark to be entertaining, it is not.  In fact, there is much to recommend in this production beginning with the masterful acting of Guy Massey.  As the titled monster, Massey presents a tortured creature (suggested quite well by his body contortions) who loathes the many chances the over privileged and very whiny Pinocchio gets.  Time and time again Massey reminds the audience of his wretched existence on the margins of society whereas an ungrateful Pinocchio gets the unconditional love of his father.  The sarcasm is absolutely dripping from Massey as he points out the many second chances that Pinocchio (but never the monster) gets.  As a narrator of the story, Massey is able to draw in the audience with his strong stage presence and calculated voice

Guy Massey is Frankenstein's Monster

Other standout performances include Robert Fenton as Pinocchio and Dan Kerr-Hobert in an assortment of roles that include Geppetto and a very creepy, but funny, mule driver.  For most of the play, Pinocchio acts almost as a straight man for the other actors to react against.  Like all Neo-Futurists productions the actors also play off the audience for laughs and make use of almost every space in the theater.  Characters sometimes chased each other through rows (not just aisles) and staging sometimes appears in unexpected places such as when Robert Fenton entered the stage from behind my seat and then climbed over my wife and I in order to reenter the stage.  This dismissal of the fourth wall works well within the intimate setting of the Neo-Futurarium and is never overdone.  The sheer number of roles played by the actors also injects a necessary amount of silliness to the production.  Also done well are the various low and higher special effects that included puppetry, good use of shadow, and very entertaining props.

Chris Ricket, Robert Fenton, and Tien Doman

If I had one complaint about the performance it was that at times it felt a little long.  Perhaps Greg Allen should have focused on key points in the puppet's development instead of telling as much of the story as he did.  I would have also preferred more interactions between The Monster and Pinocchio as the tension in those exchanges were a delight to view.  With that said, this rendition of Pinocchio is creative, thoughtful, and not at all for kids.  I liked it.

Dan Kerr-Hobert, Robert Fenton, and Guy Massey

Bottom Line:  I do recommend The Strange and Terrible True Tale of Pinocchio (The Wooden Boy) As Told By Frankenstein (The Wretched Creature), but not for everyone. Any parent taking a child under the age of ten to this play should be arrested.  Also, persons who believe in fairies, go to Disneyland once a year, or collect stuffed animals or any other overly sweet knick-knack will not enjoy this production.  Tickets are $20/ $10 for students and seniors.  Thursdays are “pay what you can.”  The Neo-Futurists play at the Neo-Futurarium located above a funeral parlor on Foster and Ashland.  For more information click here:  http://www.neofuturists.org/

The Cast: Tien Doman, Thomas Kelly, Chris Rickett, Dan Kerr-Hobert, Guy Massey, and Robert Fenton

Photos by:  Bravelux

 

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