Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Dracula"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Christopher Harding


Reviewed by Christopher Harding

With Halloween creeping up on us, playgoers may be forgiven if they, like trick or treaters, go off their diet of serious fare, and indulge in a little melodrama. Norwell's Company Theatre feeds the craving with a handsome production of "Dracula."

Nowadays Buffy slays vampires each week on the WB, and Anne Rice regularly tops the bestseller lists with her century-spanning chronicles of the undead, but it was Bram Stoker's novel about Count Dracula that really introduced English-speaking audiences to the Transylvanian transmutator…the aristocrat who could become a bat. Few members of the Company Theatre audience will be unfamiliar with Bela Lugosi's most famous screen role or one of the many gorier subsequent movie adaptations. We all know how this story goes and wait to hear the count refuse an offer to wet his whistle with the line "I never drink – wine."

But just in case there is somebody who has been sleeping a crypt for the last hundred year, the plot concerns the attempts of Dr. Arthur Seward and Professor van Helsing to keep the beautiful Mina Murray from totally falling under the influence of the hideous Dracula before he succeeds in transforming her into a fellow vampire. The action takes place at Dr. Seward's home which rather inconveniently adjoins his Asylum for the Insane, from whence are always escaping maniacal patients like the rather endearing, insect-eating Renfield.

Ted Tiller's sporadically humorous version of Stoker's novel gives the stodgy English characters occasional wry comments. Margaret Kelly as Mina gets to show by far the most facets to her character as she shifts in and out of the baleful influence of somber count. Paul Chiano as the bug-eating, Houdini-like Renfield steals every scene he's in… and Doug Marsden endows the title character with an unhealthy majesty and allure that command respect. Costume designer Deidre Merritt has moved the outfits up to the 1920's, a slightly perkier period… and Bob Grazioso and producer Zoe Bradford come through with a impressively solid and detailed set…

Though the special effects of this "Dracula" may startle, the story itself is far too familiar to actually frighten. Nevertheless, those most fidgety of critics, young children seem to find the production of this grand old classic engrossing.

"Dracula" (till 30 November)
30 Accord Park Drive, NORWELL

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide