Chicago-based actor Will Allan will play Victor Frankenstein. Courtesy photo

On the eve of the 200th birthday of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Cardinal Stage Company is taking on an adventurous stage adaptation of the Gothic classic. Adapted by Nick Dear, the play premiered at London’s Royal National Theatre in 2011, and actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller swapped the lead roles evening by evening.

“It was a pretty hip, cool show,” says Randy White, who is returning after his recent departure as Cardinal Stage artistic director to direct the play. “I’m delighted to be back and find it quite funny that I haven’t really been gone,” he quips. White returns as Managing Director Gabe Gloden and the Cardinal board continue their search for his replacement.

The heart of this interpretation of Frankenstein is a father-son story, with the Creature as the central character, one who is “abandoned and trying to figure out how to make his way forward in the world,” White says. “It’s a highly physical play—very movement-oriented and active.” He promises “an enormous number of lighting and special effects” in a visual setting of “the 19th-century world of high romanticism, with a few steampunk-y updates.”

Christopher Ellis, making his first appearance with Cardinal Stage, will play the Creature. Courtesy photo

The show is connected to Indiana University’s Themester program, which is, according to the IU website, designed to foster the exchange of ideas across classes, events, and activities at the university and in the community. This fall, the focus is on Diversity, Difference and Otherness. The play is included through its themes of otherness, assimilation, and scientific responsibility. White expects the performance will bring in about 2,000 local middle and high school students, and will provide one of the least bookish, more thrilling productions in the 10 years he has directed shows in connection with Themester.

“It won’t be too gross, but there should be a few shocks. It is a horror story, after all,” says White. “It’s really the template for all horror stories. It’s amazing when you think about it. This 19-year-old girl wrote a book 200 years ago and changed the literary world.”

Frankenstein opens at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Friday, October 27, and closes Sunday, November 5.