(Barbara Browning’s article appeared in BOMB, Winter, 2012.)
(Barbara reads out loud.) About five years ago, I went with my son, who was 13, to see Richard Foreman’s Zomboid!—we both thought it was terrific. There was a big stuffed ass on the stage, and periodically, a booming voice would inexplicably intone: “Donkey!” In the program notes, Foreman emphatically rejected the notion of a unified meaning to the piece. When the play was over, we walked out, and I said excitedly to my son, “I think the donkey is the beast of burden, which is language, and meaning is the heavy load we keep trying to make it carry!” My son said, “I don’t think the donkey was supposed to mean anything.” Of course he was right. It was an “Aha!” moment rapidly followed by a “D’oh!”
I had precisely this problem when I heard that Radiohole—the brilliant, wacky, and irreducible Brooklyn-based experimental theater company—was working on a production called Frankenstein. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein seems to be tailor-made for Radiohole; a parable of what could be the defining features of their aesthetic: the mash-up and the unorthodox (and seemingly out-of-control) use of technology. The monster’s odd-lot mix of body parts could seem to evoke the company’s collaborative creative process, in which all members’ thoughts, obsessions, and associations become part of any project. Their productions also regularly slam together high and low—a tendency perfectly suited to a Romantic novel that, at this point, is inextricably linked in our imaginations to the 1931 film, not to mention the Mel Brooks remix.