The Gravedigger: A Tale of Frankenstein Monster

by Joseph Zettelmaierfirst folio theatre

Directed by: Alison Vesely

At  First Folio Theatre

Follow-Up on a Scary Classic

“The Gravedigger: A Tale of Frankenstein’s Monster”, follows the doctor’s retribution search for the monster….but this eerie tale flows with more symbolism, content and depth of dialogue than one probably finds in the subsequent plays and movies from the original 1818 story. When you suspend disbelief, The Gravedigger offers an honest dramatic evening of theater with good direction, script, acting, and terror…absent the many possible current gimmicks available.

first folio theatre

Differing from the original classic, playwright Joseph Zettelmaier takes us further into other areas, asking and bravely answering major questions about evil, loneliness, violence and love. The play begins with the grave digger who finds the monster in an open grave wanting to die. There is only one gun shot, but who gets killed? Do not be too frightened; the play does includes a few moments of smart humor as well.

Last season, First Folio Theatre took on the world premiere of “Salvage”, and now wisely chose another world premiere by the same prolific writer. Zettelmaier has written some 17 plays with five in production around the country just this past year, and has collected a vast array of awards. He obviously found a professional niche. Long ago Alison Vesely discovered her career calling shown by her astute direction of The Gravedigger, which she says asks the question, “What does it mean to be human?”

The highlight of The Gravedigger stems from the very convincing and touching performance of Craig Spindle. He amazes as he remains authentic for every minute second of the play, leading the other three characters in this compelling story. An extremely tall and hefty monster, played by John Carroll, carefully balances gentleness with ferocity, and Doug MacKechnie fulfills the frantic role of the doctor. A delightful Simina Contras, playing a Gypsy girl, offers lightness, color and drama in her scenes. One could hear a pin drop during the many sensitive interactions.

first folio theatre

The original music and sound design by Christopher Kriz not only set a marvelous atmosphere during the play, but the creative notes could have been enjoyed in isolation. His music made me want to search out and explore his work further. The background sounds meshed beautifully with the tree -filled Bavarian graveyard that provided a very workable eerie set designed by Angela Weber Milller. Even before the performance, the walk from the parking lot to the 1921 Tudor Revival-styled Peabody Mansion sets the mood for the sinister events to come.

Christopher Kriz and Joseph Zettelmaier have both joined the First Folio family as Artistic Associates…very wise collaboration indeed. After seeing Salvage and The Gravedigger, Zettelmaier’s variety of subject matter and entertaining style intrigue me. Like binge t.v. watching , he makes one very anxious to see his next episode. You may feel the same way after trying this chilling and suspense-filled Gravedigger!


 Margaret Eva

Reviewed on October 4, 2014

Jeff Recommended

For  more info checkout The Gravedigger page at

Mayslake Peabody Estate
1717 W. 31st St. (off Route #83)
Oak Brook, IL. 60614

Performances Oct. 4 – November 2, 2014
Wednesday thru Saturday 8:00 p.m. – Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Parking is free.
Regular tickets: $29-$39; Seniors and Students: $25-$35.
To order, call 630.986.8067 or visit

The show is appropriate for students in middle school and up.