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Meridian High School in Falls Church, Virginia, presented Frankenstein to the Cappies Critics on April 26, 2024. Here are the top two Cappies Critic reviews.

McKenzie Phelan

Quince Orchard High School


A stage washed in green light. Black-clothed figures enter the scene, as piano music plays. Slowly, a young woman approaches a glowing grave, cradling her baby girl.


Thus begins Meridian High School’s production of Frankenstein: a haunting tale of monsters, ghosts, and the women who create them.


Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel of the same name, was adapted for the stage by Danielle Mohlman in 2020. The play centers Mary Shelley herself, as she writes a ghost story to cope with the loss of her child. But when the conflicts facing Victor Frankenstein, his monstrous Creature, and the women who cross their paths begin to mirror those in Shelley’s own life, she must find the strength to give her characters - and herself - the ending they deserve.


The beating heart of the production was Abby Berg, in the dual roles of Mary Shelley and The Creature. As Shelley, Berg made clear the writer’s morbid fascination with her story, narrating even the darkest events with powerful intensity and a twisted sense of delight. This intensity persisted when Shelley faced the world outside her novel, as Berg deftly depicted Shelley’s anguished descent into near madness under the weight of her grief, her husband’s scrutiny, and society’s demands. Berg displayed equal talent as The Creature, contrasting animalistic movement and a melodic voice to create a complex and captivating character. Berg shifted effortlessly between the roles, developing two uniquely engrossing performances.


Also notable were Hugo Ratheau as mad scientist Victor Frankenstein, and Alex Fulgham as his friend Henry Clerval. Ratheau’s brash mannerisms emphasized Frankenstein’s egotism and contrasted nicely with the quiet sensitivity of Fulgham’s Clerval. Fulgham made excellent use of touch and proximity in interactions with Ratheau, revealing the depth of Clerval’s fierce devotion to Frankenstein. And not to be missed was the ensemble, whose synchronized acting enhanced each scene and intensified the show’s chilling atmosphere.


The play’s industrial set (created by Augie Reitmeyer, Avery Pike, Emily Marrow, and Millie Beaudry), consisted of bare metal scaffolding, creating a "skeleton" for the performance. Interactive elements allowed The Creature to climb up, swing on, and flip off the set pieces, emphasizing both his powerful strength and his childlike nature. The set was further enhanced by the work of the special effects team (Naomi Lewis, Millie Beaudry, Carlos Ortiz, and Sean Cunniffe), including projected backdrops which created continuity between Shelley’s world and that of her novel. The team also developed the video projections played during Frankenstein’s nightmare sequences, featuring frightening visuals that arrested audiences' attention. Contributing to the production's ominous mood, original music (composed by student Carlos Ortiz) underscored the show and was balanced well with microphone levels due to the skillful work of sound designers Ashe Stoner, Tyler Jones, and Ortiz.


With passionate actors and exceptional tech, the students of Meridian High School have stitched together a truly unforgettable performance.

Allie Vargo

McLean High School


Lightning flashes. Thunder booms. Worms squirm through the dirt. Creeping slowly from a fresh grave, an eerie green glow illuminates the stage. Welcome to Meridian High School’s production of “Frankenstein” by Danielle Mohlman.


The play, based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 classic Gothic novel of the same name, was originally workshopped at Meridian High School in 2020. Written by Danielle Mohlman, this adaptation follows the grief-stricken writer Mary Shelley as she works to overcome the loss of her infant and the infidelity of her husband. Supported by her mother, the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley undertakes the writing of a horror novel focused on the concept of creation. But as the story progresses, Mary falls upon one question she cannot answer -- who is the real monster in her story of Frankenstein?


In the role of Mary Shelley, Abby Berg displayed a beautiful range of emotions which left the crowd enthralled. When introduced, Berg shook, wept, and sobbed in the depths of grief; yet when engrossed in the tale, Berg prowled across the stage, narrating the events with cold passion and resolve. As the Creature, Berg’s performance flipped as well. While Berg might not have undergone any physical change onstage, their transformation into the creature was evident. With rippling and animalistic movements, Berg slithered, lumbered, and crawled across the stage, flipping off poles and scaling walls, giving the character the terrifyingly inhuman power which defined the role. Simply by appearing onstage as the Creature, Berg heightened the stage’s tensions, evoking the emotions of a classic horror movie throughout the entire auditorium.


With her level head and encouraging personality, Samantha Grooms, in the role of Mary Wollstonecraft, phenomenally represented the unconditional love, support, and encouragement mothers provide for their children. Her constant presence onstage, completely engaged with the fantastical story of her daughter’s creation, made her role as Mary Shelley’s mother and protector wholly captivating for the audience. Additionally, the bond between Hugo Ratheau, in the role of Victor Frankenstein, and Alex Fulgham, in the role of Henry Clerval, was heartwarming and persuasive due to its honesty and authenticity. The loud, outspoken Ratheau was perfectly paired with the quiet, logical Fulgham, resulting in a duo fated to complete each other in every instance.


But the play would not be complete without its amazingly talented ensemble, dubbed The Party, which appeared in the background of almost every scene. While a number of the ensemble did appear in individual roles, the beauty of their acting came from their synchronous movements and emotions. Whether in a party, in the woods, or witnessing reanimation, the ensemble acted to enhance and elevate the show’s set into an interactive and highly engaging tangle of limbs and bodies that served to immerse the audience in the tone of the scene.


The play’s masterful costuming (executed by Sophie O’Hara and the Meridian Costume Crew) coupled with the actors’ ghastly makeup (designed by Paxton Hebblethwaite and Tabby Hermann) absorbed the audience into the haunting, steampunk-esque aesthetic of “Frankenstein.” Similarly, the metal design of the set (created by Augie Reitmeyer, Avery Pike, Emily Marrow, and Millie Beaudry) felt incomplete and vaguely skeletal in a way that perfectly mirrored the plot of the story.


A disturbing yet quintessential tale of the cyclical nature of love, abuse, and motherhood, Meridian High School’s production of “Frankenstein” was an experience so strikingly poignant it could bring the dead to life.


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