What's it about?
Phantasmagoria follows the life of Mary Shelley as she struggles to write Frankenstein.
What'd I experience?
As I read about the show I found out all I needed to know: it had puppets. I have a weird thing with puppets. I love them all. whether it's a more friendly Muppet puppet or a Dark Crystal-esque creature puppet, I'm down to watch something with them. Not only that, but the show had sex, drinking, cursing, horror, Satanic symbols all over the ground, AND puppets. That's my aesthetic right there.
Before I get into the actual show I would like to point out the experience I had before hand. I'm sitting in the lobby and I look and see this little basket full of goodie bags for Halloween. So after about 15 minutes of staring a lady finally comes over and says "you know those are free to take right?" So obviously...
I took one, and was done with it within a few seconds. So not only am I happy and full of free candy, but I see them set up a table, and a man comes over with a goats horn, a box, and a red candle and sits down. Once again I'm curiously staring and then the lady comes back over and says "We're giving free Tarot card readings to anyone who wants them, feel free to go on over." Instantly I ran over because 1. it was free, and 2. I never had my fortune told before and I always wanted to.
I sat down and he asked my name and what I wanted to know. I had no idea that it worked like that, I just thought everyone kind of had the same kind of deal going on. I didn't really know what to ask him about, so I just made it kind of vague and asked what was in store for my future. He then led me through the steps, and I pulled out 4 cards.
I pulled the Queen of Wands, The Highe Priestess, The Moon in Reverse, and automatically after he placed the last card across (the 2 of Wands) all he said was "Oh..." in a kind of surprised or scared way, which was pretty much the last thing I want to hear when I ask someone about my future. Basically he said that a big change will come in my life, either in the form of success or failure. Women rule my life, and soon a time of great learning will come from a woman either in a high authoritative position over me or deeply close personal relationship with me. However, I tend to let my emotions rule my decisions, and a time of challenge will come with one of these women, and I must not let my emotions or initial judgement make my decisions, and that I should always second guess myself in these scenarios and try and keep a level head. He said, overall it's a favorable outcome, but one slip up on my part with the women in my life can prove disastrous for me. My initial reaction was to just to say "you don't know me, who told you all these things about me" but I just kind of stuttered in awe for a bit and said "well that was creepily accurate," to which he replied "that's my goal" with a wicked smile. So I thanked him and walked already slightly spooked to the theatre.
Now, let's get into the show. Obviously, given the nature of the show I'm not going to be real PG here. I mean they spared no expense, they were just dropping the C-word left and right, and I don't mean crap. Plus there was college frat boy levels of drinking and Game of Thrones levels of sex going on throughout the show - either girls with guys, guys with guys, or girls with girls. It was awesome. I'm going to refrain from the actual story of Frankenstein because I already went into that here if you want to read that, but I do want to talk about how fucking awesome the puppetry in the show was.
The first puppet used was just this giant eyeball that watched Frankenstein in his laboratory, and it was really unsettling, and eventually that became a giant fully fledged face that moved it's mouth and blinked, and that was used in the instances where Victor was "haunted" by his creations presence. Next was their encounter, and that's when he really came to life. The creature was this 7 foot, kind of slender abomination, that looked like each piece was taken from something else. It took 4 people to operate, one for each leg, and one for an arm and the head and one for an arm and body. It was real wretched and unsettling looking, with this long half black, half gray hair. It kind of looked like King Ramses from Courage the Cowardly Dog in build, but more zombified. At one point, the creature was telling his story of survival using paper puppets with a light shone on them to cast a shadow against a sheet, portraying the family that the creature meets in the forest. I was already beside myself with all this puppetry, and then at the end they went and brought out this 13 foot monster that hovered over the crowd, staring at us briefly, before it shuffled behind the stage and into the darkness. I couldn't contain myself.
Beside telling the story of Frankenstein, they also talked about Mary Shelley's admittedly shitty life. And then in between that, the "professor" would come out and ask us questions and give an interesting anecdote, and some of those thingsreally stuck with me. She mentioned how Frankenstein is kind of the loveless version of Pinocchio. Both Pinocchio and Frankenstein follow single men who miraculously bring life into the world, yet in Frankenstein the creation is met with fear and abandonment and Pinocchio it is met with love. She then went on to explain how Frankenstein in a way is a feminist novel that reflects the time Mary was in. Abortion and birth control were not a thing, so women were forced to go through with their "creations." So she wrote about a man who is put in a similar predicament, given a creation that he can't get rid of and chooses to show hate, which only ends up ruining him in the end. It was a very interesting topic of discussion, and made me think of one of my favorite stories in an entirely new way.