Cumberbatch & Miller to swap roles in National Theatre’s Frankenstein

Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch

British actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller seem to have a lot in common. They’re tallish, lanky guys, near in age, who are both currently playing Sherlock Holmes on TV: Cumberbatch in the BBC’s Sherlock and Miller in CBS’s Elementary. Miller gets a sexier version of Dr. Watson in Lucy Liu than Cumberbatch does in Martin Freeman, as befits Miller’s track record of having been Angelina Jolie’s first husband. But it’s arguably Cumberbatch who wears this year’s crown for certifiably “dreamy” matinée idol, having been ranked Number One in Empire magazine’s 2013 worldwide readers’ poll for the 100 Sexiest Movie Stars.

But far weirder than their both being WASPily handsome and demonstrably Holmesian is the fact that they shared last year’s Olivier Award for Best Actor. They won it by alternating the dual lead roles in the National Theatre’s acclaimed 2011 stage production of Mary Shelley’s seminal Gothic novel Frankenstein. One night Cumberbatch would play obsessive Swiss inventor Victor Frankenstein and Miller his pathetic Creature; the next night they would swap parts. It was an audacious gamble on the part of director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), but it paid off: Tickets sold out for the entire run of the production, which received extravagant praise from the British press.

Now, considering the price of theatre tickets these days, imagine your quandary had you been sojourning in London during that run: Which edition to see? Who in which role? How in the world would you make up your mind?

Well, now you don’t have to, if you’ve got four hours and $24 to spare. This Sunday, October 27, the Rosendale Theatre will present both iterations onscreen, thanks to the National Theatre Live from London distribution program. At the 2 p.m. matinée, Miller will portray the Creature and Cumberbatch his maker. Come back at 7:15 p.m. if you want to see Miller as the scientist and Cumberbatch as his undead creation as well, or instead.

The version with Cumberbatch as the Creature will be reprised at an 11 a.m. matinée on Wednesday, October 30 at the Theatre, so you can even spread your viewings out over two days if you like. Either one is bound to be worth watching, but the temptation to “compare and contrast” seems hard to resist.

The screening has a two-hour running time, with no intermission. Tickets cost $12 general admission, $10 for Rosendale Theatre Collective members.

National Theatre Live from London’s Frankenstein, Sunday, October 27, 2 & 7:15 p.m., Wednesday, October 30, 11 a.m., $12/$10, Rosendale Theatre, 408 Main Street, Rosendale; (845) 658-8989, https://rosendaletheatre.org.

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