×

The Invisible Man

Playwright Len Jenkins' "Invisible Man" has about as much to do with H.G. Wells as cats do with catsup. Ostensibly based on the book by Wells, the play carries the same title as Wells' classic tale, but retains hardly any of the original's nuance and humanity, and almost none of the plot. If fidelity to source material isn't your main concern, however, this Children's Theater production is nevertheless a breezy, eminently watchable stage thriller that contains at least a few special effects capable of amusing, if not entirely mystifying, anyone who loves well-excuted stage magic.

With:
Cast: Gerald Drake (Jack Griffin), Luke M. Ingles (Jim Winters), Charity Jones (Marjorie Winters), Leah Curney (Lisa-Marie Klinglehutz), Katherine Ferrand, (Cindy Klinglehutz), John Paul Gamoke (Jesse Klinglehutz), Clyde Lund (Prof. Cosmo Gibson), John Middleton (Ron Larson).

Playwright Len Jenkins’ “Invisible Man” has about as much to do with H.G. Wells as cats do with catsup. Ostensibly based on the book by Wells, the play carries the same title as Wells’ classic tale, but retains hardly any of the original’s nuance and humanity, and almost none of the plot. If fidelity to source material isn’t your main concern, however, this Children’s Theater production is nevertheless a breezy, eminently watchable stage thriller that contains at least a few special effects capable of amusing, if not entirely mystifying, anyone who loves well-excuted stage magic.

The Invisible Man” was written in 1897, but Jenkins jumps the action ahead 60 years to 1957. On the outskirts of a town called Glowville (there’s a nuclear power plant nearby), a young widow (Charity Jones) and her teenage son Jim (Luke M. Ingles) run a small lodge called the Sleepy Daze Inn, where of all places, atomic scientist-on-the-lam Jack Griffin (Gerald Drake) chooses to hide out after being fired from the nuclear power plant and committing a rash of crimes in the area.

Entering Phantom-like in a black trenchcoat and wide-brimmed hat, his body wrapped in gauze, Griffin immediately begins making demands like a spoiled rock star. Dissatisfied with his original room assignment, Griffin decides to take up residence in the Inn’s parlor.

Griffin quickly makes friends with young Jim, and turns the boy into his confidant, assistant and lookout. Jim is ripe for idolatry since losing his father in the Korean war, and a sucker for science to boot. Together, the two continue Griffin’s desperate search to find a way to control his powers of invisibility. As the story unfolds, and Griffin’s evil designs become more and more obvious, much is made of the fact that Griffin is a scientist whose hunger for knowledge turned into a thirst for power. “An invisible man is like a God!” cries Griffin at one point. But as intoxicated as he is by the “power” he has when he’s invisible, Griffin doesn’t have much of an imagination for what he might do with that power beyond looting a few stores and copping some free travel. Playwright Jenkin almost completely ignores the fact that to the original Jack Griffin, invisibility was a horrible nuisance: He couldn’t eat in public (floating food tends to gives waiters the willies), walk down the street without being bumped into, or wear clothes, even on the coldest days.

The original Jack Griffin just wanted to be visible again after making what he realized was a tragic mistake. The updated Jack Griffin is, in the tradition of modern movies and television shows, a maniacal psychopathic control freak.

The people who see the most potential in and get the most out of Griffin’s invisibility are those on the Children’s Theater special effects team. Griffin’s invisibility is made manifest through a combination of clever puppet manipulations, sleight-of-hand gimmicks and black-light tricks. Not all the tricks work perfectly, but most do.

Considering that he plays the role of the Invisible Man with his head completely covered in gauze, Drake does a tremendous job of communicating Griffin’s volatile two-faced nature. Likewise, Ingles delivers a persuasive performance as the precocious but troubled young Jim, and Jones is equally charming as Jim’s conservative, strong-willed mother. If the play took place in the 1990s, there would doubtless be a strong dose of sexual tension between Griffin and Marjorie. But the distortion of Wells’ original story doesn’t dip quite so low. The worst the Children’s Theater has done is transform one of the world’s greatest science fiction stories into a grade-B play.

The Invisible Man

Production: MINNEAPOLIS A Children's Theater Company presentation of a play in one act by Len Jenkin, based on the book by H.G. Wells. Directed by Gary Gisselman.

Crew: Set, Tom Butsch; costumes, David Kay Micklesen; sound, Victor Zupane; lighting, Robert Wierzel; special effects, Michael Curry; stage manager, Janice F. Campbell. Artistic director, Jon Cranney; managing director, John A. Haynes. Opened, reviewed Sept. 6, 1995, at Children's Theater; 750 seats; $ 24 top. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

With: Cast: Gerald Drake (Jack Griffin), Luke M. Ingles (Jim Winters), Charity Jones (Marjorie Winters), Leah Curney (Lisa-Marie Klinglehutz), Katherine Ferrand, (Cindy Klinglehutz), John Paul Gamoke (Jesse Klinglehutz), Clyde Lund (Prof. Cosmo Gibson), John Middleton (Ron Larson).

More Film

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content