by Ron Cohen · August 15, 2014
The Frankenstein story gets a frolicsome reboot in My Monster Friend, a happy and extremely kiddy-friendly offering that’s part of the Junior segment of the New York International Fringe Festival. The show, produced by Extra Teatro of Rome, Italy, is performed by Jason Goodman, who hails from Boston, and Andrea Trovato, who comes from Sicily. Goodman, a lean and lanky fellow, and Trovato, compact and high-spirited, make an engaging pair of contrasting persona.
Goodman, who co-wrote the piece with the director Arianna De Giorgi and also contributed the music and lyrics, plays Dr. Science-Stein. The doctor is a dedicated inventor, who -- as he tells us in song -- loves what he does. He has a laboratory filled with whimsical gadgets, such as a cuckoo clock that never forgets to say “Thank you,“ and a skull that lights up when proclaiming “Good morning to you.”
Still, it‘s a lonely life, so Science-Stein decides to create a friend. He has on hand a lot of useful parts for making a man but he does need a brain, which he orders online from his cute computer . The finished product -- created behind a colorfully painted flat on which are mounted many of the show’s props -- turns out to be a lively young fellow that Science-Stein dubs Adam. The problem is that the brain turns out to have been Italian, and it’s a language that Adam spews out a mile a minute as he runs about the stage playing Superman.
As Science-Stein sets out to teach Adam English, there’s some bilingual byplay that might help the tots in the audience learn a few Italian words. But mainly, judging by the performance I attended, the youngsters were held captive by the highly animated songs and dances interspersed between the bits of slapstick and other comic stuff. The performers sometimes accompany themselves on guitars, sometimes there’s pre-recorded accompaniment.
A little drama develops as Adam professes a desire to go to school (he wants to be an astronaut), and Science-Stein worries about being lonely again. But things work out fine for a joyful conclusion. And the whole thing wraps up in a smart 55 minutes, just the right amount of time to keep the babes in thrall and the adults sufficiently bemused. It’s also nice to think that along with creating a monster friend, Science-Stein may be creating future fans for live theatre.