For actor Connor Toms, playing infamous literary Doctor Victor Frankenstein is a piece of cake. “All you have to do,” he says, “is live in the mind of a sociopath for two hours a night.” Toms is tackling this demanding role as the lead in Book-It Repertory Theatre’s well-received production of Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus. “Only in theatre,” Toms says, “does someone get the opportunity to be an obsessive genius without literally creating an atomic bomb or a new strain of smallpox or something disastrous like that.”
Frankenstein, for those who may not have read the original book by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, isn’t the monster, and certainly not the cartoonish green one we know with the bolts in his neck. No, Frankenstein is young doctor Victor, the man who creates the monster. The novel was published in 1818 when she was 20 years old. The novel deals with monumental and everlasting themes: Is there a God? What happens after death? What is life? Who, in the end, is the monster, the doctor or the creature he created?
“The problem” Toms says of producing work as recognizable as Frankenstein, “is that there are so many unfortunate pre-conceived notions about Frankenstein and artists have to battle with the clichés associated with it or are forced to try and create something new from it.” Fortunately for Toms, and the rest of the cast and crew, they were dealing directly with the source material. “With that,” he says, “one only needs to tell a story.”
Book-It is different than many other theatres in that it preserves the author’s exact words—everything heard on stage is taken directly from the original page. “The glory of Book-It,” says Toms, “is at its most fundamental and basic concept, it’s a vehicle for storytelling. Book-It succeeds in affecting us at our most primitive levels of attention. We all want to be told a good story. It’s great to perform under that conceit.”
The production, which also stars Jim Hamerlinck as the monster and Sascha Streckel as Victor’s love interest Elizabeth Lavenza, is far from disastrous—it’s received largely glowing reviews. It also marks an important transition for Toms himself. “When I heard that Book-It would be doing an adaptation of Frankenstein, I jumped at the chance to audition,” he says. But he never thought he’s land the part of Victor. “It’s a gigantic role and my graduation from young dude to leading man has been rather protracted. I’m very grateful for [director] David Quicksall’s faith in me.”
There’s no question that Toms is officially a leading man. He commands the Book-It stage for nearly the entire length of the two-plus hour production. At turns serious, funny, loving, frightening—it’s a lot for one actor. “The ability to show a disturbing range of emotions is so exciting,” Toms says. “From joy to rage to despair and back again. It’s an exhaustive blessing.”
In addition to becoming a leading man, Toms is also becoming a bit of a workhorse within Seattle’s acting community. Right before taking on the role of Victor Frankenstein he was in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. He will soon be seen, with his wife and fellow actor Hana Lass, in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
Until then, he will spend his evenings in the skin of a sociopath, who, Toms says, “goes down a serious rabbit hole every night. We’re all pretty blessed performing.” And audiences are blessed to see Toms perform.