Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Dracula"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


adapted by Steven Dietz from the novel by Bram Stoker
directed by Gail Weston-Roberts

Renfield … Chris Baer
Attendant; Shade … Trent Stewart
Attendant … Randy Divinski
Mina … Michelle O’Malley
Lucy … Danielle Scholle
Harker … David Wood
Seward … Mike Lague
Dracula … R. C. Carroll
Van Helsing … Murtagh Hunt
Maid; Vixen … Bethany Towne
Vixen … Diane Hernandez
Shade … Kaelin Farmer

The true horror in the TCAN production of DRACULA is Steven Dietz’s adaptation of Mr. Stoker’s classic thriller; any child will tell you that, no matter the venue or the budget, DRACULA must commence in the Count’s castle to establish a Gothic mood in the then-contemporary Victorian world and build up enough interest in the anti-hero to sustain his presence when he is away for vast stretches of time. For Mr. Dietz to drop the Transylvania sequence into the middle of Act One as a flashback and to begin with Mina and Lucy chatting is, well, batty: when the Count first appears as a shadow and then poses as Jonathan Harker at the site of the very ship which has brought him to England, there is no tragedy, no menace to him and that transplanted flashback now bogs down the plot rather than illuminates it --- after awhile, the Count becomes as pesky as one of the flies that Renfield gobbles down. Granted, some telescoping is needed to bring this novel, told in letters and diaries, to stage-life but Lucy is reduced to having one suitor instead of three (conveniently, Dr. Seward) and her victimization and double-deaths are dispatched in record time (ditto the Count’s); Jonathan Harker, whose own character is defined through his relations with the Count when in Transylvania, becomes a blank, here; Van Helsing, a talky bore. Only Mina, who is all business and therefore all plot, and Renfield, a maddened Greek chorus, bear enough resemblance to the originals.

The TCAN production itself is similarly bloodless: at first, I was intrigued with the simple evocative setting of curtains born to ripple in a wind, a divan upon which to swoon or be ravished, and all softly lit in twilight greys and backed with brooding music, but DRACULA has its roots in melodrama and calls for actors who can barnstorm, pure and simple; Gail Weston-Roberts is content to babysit rather than direct and most of her cast is below par (oddly, Lucy and Mina give bloodcurdling screams when bitten --- doubly odd, considering how erotic the novel was in its day and still is, today). R. C. Carroll’s flaxen-haired Count could have dropped by en route to a collegiate costume party; David Wood, a fine comedian for the Vokes Players, delivers Jonathan’s lines, comic-book style --- all he needs are balloon-captions o'er his head; Mr. Wood’s declaiming is doubly-exposed by the drawing-room cadences that Mike Lague lends to a rather paternal Seward and which hit the ear as properly Victorian. Chris Baer make a delightful Grosteque out of Renfield, even if the man’s own tragedy is ignored; when you can almost taste the (invisible) flies upon which this Renfield chews, you know Ms. Baer has done her homework --- or at least knows her insects.

"Dracula" (19-28 October)
14 Summer Street, NATICK, MA
1 (508) 647.0097

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide