Chicago's Theatre Wit will premiere a new stage adaptation of Gods and Monsters, based on Christopher Bram's 1995 novel Father of Frankenstein and its 1998 screen version. The work will play a limited run beginning in May 2024, with specific dates to be announced.
The project is a collaboration between writer-actor Paul Oakley Stovall and director Tom Mullen. In a role reversal, Stovall will direct the premiere while Mullen is writing the script. The mostly fictionalized story centers on the final days of real-life film director James Whale, noted for his work on the classic horror films Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, along with the first full screen adaptation of the Broadway musical Show Boat. The work tracks the director as his health is failing while simultaneously falling for a young landscaper, Clayton Boone (Whale was openly gay throughout his career, a trailblazer ahead of his time).
In Mullen's take, the fictional Boone will become a Black man, a choice inspired by Mullen's research into Whale's Show Boat and its casting of Black activist Paul Robeson as Joe. Going back to Bram's novel after changes were made for the 1998 film version, Mullen's take will also depict Whale's housekeeper as a Mexican immigrant, part of a larger goal to bring race to the center of the story while exploring how Whale's homosexuality helped to unlock the then-uncommon empathy for outsiders and the oppressed that is present in his screen work. The changes have been approved by Bram, who says in a statement that "[m]y story is in excellent hands."
"The title Gods and Monsters almost implies a tale of good and evil, of a benevolent force versus a destructive one," says Stovall in a statement. "But what draws me to this story is that it’s all about the places in between. It’s about what’s just under the surface in all of us and how people who can seem so different are always so very similar because we are all made of the same star stuff. We live in the same world and we want the same things."