DOMA Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein”: All the Ambient Creepiness of Halloween yet just as Magical and Heartwarming as Christmas!

Photo Courtesy of Michael Lamont

Photo Courtesy of Michael Lamont

TRUTH: Frankenstein is actually a really nice guy, can rock some pretty sweet dance moves–despite his clunky, awkward, thick soled boots—(How he doesn’t trip over those things? I’m still trying to figure.) and smells ever so slightly of aloe vera, which makes sense I suppose considering he is the same color of the plant of origin…(possibly infused with the healing thistle by a one, Dr. Frankenstein himself) at least the Frankenstein in DOMA Theatre’s current production of “The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein!”

The MET Theatre, home of the DOMA theatre group, is nestled in a quaint, quiet neighborhood in East Hollywood’s southernmost backstreets.  Surrounded by both houses and warehouses alike, it is a silent beacon of theatrical culture amidst all things insipidly domestic and industrial.  What really makes it stick out tonight—like a sore thumb—on that of a bloated corpse protruding from a random grave–is the beckoning steps of the open door to the entryway of the venue as cobwebs festoon the ceilinged staircase and gravestones flank the very steps one must take in order to “walk this way” up to the dungeon which doubles as a lobby!

Poster Courtesy of DOMA Theatre

Poster Courtesy of DOMA Theatre

Two ominous red double doors greet me at the top of the stairs.  They are sealed in what look like metal (made of plastic) Bocci balls ensconced in chains gripping at both the handles.  A hooded skeleton ornaments the top of the doorframe as if warning all to refrain from entering or forbidding a nonexistent exit; (a harrowing talisman for any ambient audience member even thinking of leaving early). A player organ sounds catty corner to this grisly scene and a hump, or what looks merely like the hump of Igor (or perhaps Igor as an ambient lumberjack, farmer’s wife, or aspiring stereotypical lesbian) sits in the center of the room atop a rustic wooden cart enrobed in flannel!  If we weren’t already in the mood for Halloween; we are now!

A friendly non-skeleton, bereft of any humps or related creepy deformities, greets me as I approach the box office.  Not only does she bestow, upon this reviewer, a couple of VIP passes for the most superlative of seats, but offers the broadest of smiles, a gift bag, and a complimentary chocolate!  She will ultimately explain that the VIP pass entitles me to one free drink and that drinks may be brought into the theatre to our hearts content!  Forget Halloween this just jumped us right past any harvest related happiness and into Christmas!!!

An adorable Man dressed in lederhosen, with a bowl haircut/Dutch Boy wig, with an aptly comedic *Ch*erman accent will enter the lobby and summon us all in.  (He will also codependently wheedle after us when we leave suddenly to go to the bathroom right before the performance starts. Don’t know what that’s all about…) Those (aka the reviewers) with the VIP passes, will be the first to do his bidding…  Upon entry I can’t help but notice the subtle black stands sitting before each row of seats that will serve as our drink stands.  Oh heavenly joy—like dinner theatre almost; minus the feast of mutton but magically comprising all the sustenance of music and mellow drama!

And serve up the goods it will!  From the first lights up to lightening and fog on the entire cast in hooded robes singing “A Village in Transylvania” to curtain call and ol’ Frankie’s first awkward steps out from the behind it to take audience photos, it is a Los Angeles production unparalleled by any other.

Set initially in New York, a young, and virginal Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who has dedicated his entire life to science, will briskly leave all he knows, up to and including his overly fastidious, yet feminine fiancé Elizabeth, (who pretty much sums up their entire relationship in her primary song “Please Don’t Touch Me”).  At the news of the death of his grandfather Victor, Frederick is beholden to handle any and all stately affairs at his cavernous, stone mansion in Transylvania!  There he will meet Igor, his soon-to-be comely, blonde, scientific, creative (and perhaps even eventually pro-creative) assistant Inga, and the creepy, yet warm, yet stern, (yet confusing) and hypersexual Teutonic intoned Frau Blucher (aka Victor’s girlfriend…or probably ex-girlfriend now…’cause…y’know…)  It is here that the apex of the hijinx, sexual awakening, monster building, monster’s eventual sexual stirrings, and chicanery ensues!

All Photos Courtesy of Michael Lamont:

From the cheesy jokes of pronunciation: Frankenstein vs. Phranqensteen to EEgor vs. Eyegore, to the “Nothing like a Brain” song in the melody of “Nothing like a Dame” early on in Act I: “Though your genitalia has been known to fail ya, you can bet your ass on the brain!”, to Igor’s consistently moving back hump (at least according to Dr. Frankenstein), to good ol’ googley-eyed Igor himself, all is a feast for the senses, ears, nose, (throat I suppose) and eyes (Igor’s one googley eye in particular–though not so much the right, but the left-handed one to be sure…)

Everything is appealing and suspenseful beginning with paint-relieved “stone” set  by John Iacovelli.  Harboring a central stone tower of easily swinging curved walls (most likely plywood but you could have fooled me at first), and multiple stair cases, the stage itself can be magically transformed into a town square, inner sanctum of Victor Frankenstein’s estate and– once the stone tower is opened, Dr. Frankenstein’s lab replete with varying and sundry contraptions, accoutrements, and an operating table that rises and falls to mounting suspense, sexual tension and sexual decline once Frederick and Inga have done the biologically bodacious deed!

Acting, singing, dancing, speaking…stuttering, stammering, slurring, groaning, difficulty-with-words-in-general, and shuffling-before-walking, along with any and all comedic timing is impeccable!–and the collective cast, a complete and utter joy to behold! John David Wallis as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein/Phranquensteen is the perfect front man for any and all side stories, back stories or fronts as stories revolving around any and all things back handed!  Scott Sieffert–with the googley eye– is just as goofball an Igor/Eyegor as there ever was; dropping the monster’s brain before insertion and then stepping on it (to depressed-footed impression) like the most malleable of Nerf footballs, he is as clumsy as he is goofy—not to mention talented.  Speaking voice slightly and giddily reminiscent of Nathan Lane, this one’s a star!  Susan Huckle as Inga is just pluckily delicious, Michelle Holmes as the morbidly lusty Frau Blucher is perfectly comedically timed to aptly amusing effect!  Bobby Reed as the Hermit is so flawlessly Brooksian, one senses he had to be there on Broadway for the Musical’s very first production, and Bradley Kuykendall ‘s ghost of Franken-past in the form of Grandfather Victor, is forceful and eerily intriguing such that we wish his character was still alive and had more scenes.  We definitely want to know more!  (Perhaps this is an idea for grandson Freddie’s next life-affirming project!)

Hector S. Quintana as The Monster is positively brilliant, somewhat scary, but more to the point sympathetic, hilarious, and endearing.  From the animated facial expressions of confusion, to anger, pain and joy, one almost feels as though they are watching a cartoon; select animation revolving around an innocent pup taking his first steps into the world, particularly in light of the heavy-booted walk as a series of predominantly stodgy, controlled falls to most toddleresque effect!

Last but certainly not least, it is the incomparable Toni Smith as Frederick’s fabulous, fastidious, hyperfeminine fiancé Elizabeth Benning who makes us all feel as though we have returned to Broadway in all its authenticity.  To watch her you’d think you’d time travelled back to the Fay Wray era of King Kong, the hey day of 42nd Street, and the flapper epoch of flowering feminine fortitude on in one!  She will leave you positively gobsmacked!

Choreography, lighting, and sound round out the stars of the cast, not to mention the ensemble themselves  who so energetically makes the choreography come to life!  This is a serious production to be reckoned with!

Run…don’t walk!—Better yet, rent a time machine and travel to this weekend already so you can witness it faster!–(and skip out on the rental deposit only to have to pay it later quicker—wait…WHAT?!?!) It is an extravaganza not to be missed!!!

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Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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