Bites, bats and beauties
Blue Room stages new adaptation of classic Dracula.
The as-yet unfinished set is somewhat multi-leveled and suggests curious angles and juxtapositions. Characters occupy these various levels, some moving, some speaking, some in a state of temporary suspended animation, awaiting their next moment of action. Director Amber Miller is out among the seats. Occasionally, she moves to a different section. She’s observing how the scene “reads"—that is, whether it can be sufficiently seen and heard no matter where one sits.
Miller is directing Steven Dietz’ recent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic tale of horror, Dracula, scheduled to open next at the Blue Room. The story, of course, follows ancient vampire Count Dracula on a journey to England and the resulting horror that occurs in the lives of some men and women there, as the Count preys on the latter and confounds the former. Playwright Dietz is perhaps best known for his mercurial drama Private Eyes, performed at the Blue Room a little while back. At first, his rolling, flowing style—blending reality and fantasy—might seem too modern for such a venerable tale as Stoker’s. But director Miller thinks the pairing works pretty well.
Sitting easily in a theater seat before the rehearsal, the blonde-haired actor-director-artist explains why she chose the play. She claims that it didn’t have as much to do with Halloween as one might think.
“We thought that [October] was a good slot for it,” she states, matter-of-factly. “It’s obviously better than if it were a spring show!” The actual reason she wanted to do the play was because it had been adapted by Dietz. “I’d read [Bram Stoker’s] book about eight years ago. And I was really unhappy with the [stage] adaptations that I’ve seen.
“I really like [Dietz] as a writer,” she explains. “And when I heard that he had adapted Dracula, I was really intrigued. I thought, OK, Steven Dietz is pretty modern and kind of an ‘out there’ playwright.” Given his inclinations, Miller wondered why Dietz would bother to adapt a classic like Dracula. She decided to read it.
It turned out that Dietz’ adaptation has much more in common with the style of the book than previous stage versions.
“One thing Steven Dietz does in his play,” Miller explains, “is that he leaves a lot to be pieced together [by the audience]. And what I think is so interesting about Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the actual story is pieced together from journal entries, letters and newspaper clippings. A lot of it is very ambiguous. You have to piece it together. And Dietz says [in his notes to the play] that that is what theater is about. He says that’s why Dracula was so wonderful to adapt into theater. I’m not sure if that’s why it’s been done so much. But it has everything. It has a lot of intrigue, and it has some terror.”
Miller couldn’t be more pleased with her cast.
“They’re great!” she says. “I have people I’ve worked with before, and a lot of people I saw for the first time at auditions that I’m really impressed with.”
Of the former, Blue Room mainstays Callen Reece (as John Harker) and Samantha Perry (as vivacious, red-haired Lucy) are here. Rounding out the main roles are Queena Delaney as Mina, David Calkins as Professor Van Helsing, Brett Edwards as Steward, David Clyne as the mad Renfield and Padraig Downey as Dracula.
Miller promises that there won’t be anything Halloweeny, schmaltzy or Hollywood about this production.
“We’re trying to keep the sense that this is a drama. We’re playing it straight.”
The audience can expect to feel a few chills?
“I’m hoping!” Amber Miller says and laughs. “There’s creepy stuff going on. That’s why people love Dracula. It’s creepy."