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Giles Davies back onstage in one-man ‘Frankenstein’

Bill DeYoung

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Drydocked back in March, actor Giles Davies took his forced vacation in stride – after all, nobody was getting on any stage, anywhere, and masking up and social distancing soon became simply what every responsible person did, performers included.

Over the months, however, isolation began to take its toll.

“The reason we pursue the art form … it’s part and parcel of my soul,” Davies says. “I felt hung out to dry. There was nothing to do. I had no value or worth in my being.”

Dramatic? Well, sure. But drama is Giles Davies’ business.

Best known for the free-range versatility he brings to Jobsite Theatre shows (most recently from The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Constellations and The Thanksgiving Play) the Hong Kong-born thespian is back in his element starting this week.

At the Jaeb Theatre, inside the Straz Center complex, he’s performing the one-man show Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus, adapted by Jim Helsinger from Mary Shelley’s novel.

The seats – and tables for four – are spaced accordingly.

“When the Straz approached me, and assured me that it would be a safe environment, I really jumped at the chance,” he explains.

The chameleonic actor plays numerous characters in this version of the classic shocker, including Victor Frankenstein and The Creature. He does it all through body posture, mannerisms, voices and attitudes.

He first performed this show in 2007, at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. “It was an intimate look into the heart of the monster, and his search for his own humanity,” one reviewer wrote. “Giles played him with just the right touches, physically, mentally, spiritually. This tragedy had much of beauty in it, and much of what makes us human.”

Indeed, Davies – who assayed the role(s) again during Cinci Shakes’ 2017 season – insists this is a more nuanced Frankenstein than we’re used to.

“The vast majority of people’s interaction with Frankenstein would’ve been through Hollywood’s interpretation,” he explains. “Which is really based on the terrifying aspects of it. I do not think that was truly Mary Shelley’s intent within the novel. It’s a little more thematically driven – with responsibility, and pride. And hubris over pride. The responsibility of the individual towards the collective.”

The Creature, insists Davies, “is really an infant, vulnerable. The creature is the victim. He doesn’t start off as the monster that everyone beholds him as. However, in receiving what everyone’s prejudice is towards him, that is what drives him to become the monster that everyone sees him as.”

In a one-person show, the responsibility falls on a single set of shoulders to bring a fully-realized story, with multiple, complex characters, to life.

“Theater is fantastic,” Davies observes. “It has a lot of bells and whistles, but as a performer I feel like oftentimes the bells and whistles belittle the power and potency of the theatrical event. So by stripping away those bells and whistles – because obviously it’s only one person up there – I cannot take you from Geneva to Ingolstadt, all the way through Europe, up into the mountains, off to the northern pole … it just can’t be done.”

This is why live performance is its own beautiful animal.

“So it requires the imagination of the audience. And I think when you rely on that, and you just let that happen, it has greater weight and power for the audience. They begin to paint it, and see it for themselves, in their own imaginations.”

Tickets and details here.

From April 16:

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