Well this was unexpected:

A play about Frankenstein and his monster that is designed to provoke thought rather than fear. Or, if you’re Mel Brooks, laughs.

“Playing with Fire (After Frankenstein)” opened Saturday for a quick two-weekend run at Etcetera, the late-night arm of Live Theatre Workshop.

The Barbara Field play fashions a monster who loves literature (his favorite is “Paradise Lost”), prays (he calls it “a kind of ecstasy”), and is deeply lonely.

As for his creator, he is a man who hunts down his Creature because the good doctor  wants to know what’s become of  the Creature and needs some sort of forgiveness.

Which is why he ends up in the North Pole, where the man-made man has hidden out with only the cold and the dark night of his soul to keep him company.

This Etcetera production, smartly directed by Ken Phillips, is a compelling one, thanks to the two leads, Stephen Frankenfield as Frankenstein and Terry Erbe as the Creature.

Frankenfield’s Frankenstein must make a great journey in this play, from a man laced with arrogance to one seeking absolution, and he does it beautifully. Erbe is not interested in a caricature of the Creature. He gives him heart and deep, often painful, roots.

Field’s play revisits the Mary Shelley story through flashbacks, but concentrates on this meeting between the two. In often poetic language, she has created a play that is thoughtful, philosophical and compelling.

But there are a few quibbles about this production: It’s a late-night one, and is almost two hours without a break. The lighting, mostly icy blue to convey the North Pole, was at times just too dim. That’s a dangerous thing to do with a production that’s already started after most reasonable people over 40 are asleep. But then, that’s not the audience for this show — though if those over-40s like good provocative theater, it should be.

Perhaps with that in mind, Etcetera  scheduled two 8:30 p.m. performances this weekend — today and Sunday. There will also be a 10:30 p.m. performance on Saturday. Performances are at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway. Tickets are $10. 327-4242.