Monthly Archive for: ‘October, 2014’

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The Island of Dr. Moreau (San Francisco)

The science fiction/fantasy novels of H. G. Wells have been the source of innumerable cinematic adaptations dating back to the days of silent film. The medium’s ability, through special effects, to bring the fantastic elements of Wells’ stories to life has led to such popular films as 1933’s “The Invisible Man”, 1953’s “The War of the Worlds” and 1960’s “The Time Machine” as well as their respective remakes. The same elements that made his novels so right for film are probably why there is a dearth of theatrical adaptations of his work. Film special effects allow for representations of things and situations that could never be captured on stage.  The only things close to theatrical presentations are recreations of radio versions of his works, such as the infamous 1938 CBS Radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds”.

Hollywood’s first stab at Wells was in 1932 with “Island of Lost Souls”, starring Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau, in an adaptation of Wells’ 1896 novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau”.  How fitting that a new theatrical approach to Wells’ work also use Moreau as the source material.

Austin, TX-based theatre artist Charles P. Stites has spent a good deal of the last two years writing and rewriting his one-man show “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, which he has “freely adapted” from the novel. He has significantly expanded on the novel’s beginning scene and severely contracted the time of the events on the island. In doing this, he has lost none of Wells’ examination of the role and responsibility of modern science, the influence and power of religion, and the subsequent danger that comes with the mixture of the two with man playing “God.”

Charles P. Stites

Stites is a magnetic performer. He arrives on a dimly lit stage – black shirt, black pants, bare feet – and, as the narrator, begins to tell his story.  In sixty minutes, he transforms into no less than ten distinct characters, each with their own unique vocal and physical traits. There is no set, there are no props, no other costumes than his original garb, no lighting to speak of, no sound but the ambient street noises of North Beach.  All there is to transfix you is an actor and the execution of his talent.

And that is more than enough. The space in which this is being performed is intimate enough to give you the sense that Stites’ narrator character is telling his story to you. It is a story of such intensity and horror that you are gripped from beginning to end.

Stites’ approach may very well be the only way to have approached this material successfully. The visuals that an audience’s mind can conjure up may very well be more horrific than any that a theatrical designer could devise.  It also allows each audience member to personalize that horror, whether it’s the horror of being stranded, of feeling hopeless or powerless, or to ultimately face the reality of death.

One of the most unique one-man shows I’ve ever seen, “The Island of Dr. Moreau” concludes its short San Francisco run this weekend with two more performances. Housed in a North Beach backstreet Art Salon, brief in length, and really low in cost ( $5 – $10),  this may very well be the theatrical bargain of the year.

The Island of Dr. Moreau

though November 2

Sat, Nov 1 @ 8pm / Sun, Nov 2 @ 6pm

The Emerald Tablet
80 Fresno St
San Francisco, CA  94133

(415) 500-2323

Photo by Dallas J. Norvell

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