As a horror fan, I was intrigued by Good Luck Macbeth’s announcement that the company would stage a production about a monster who—get this—drinks the blood of his victims! However, I was miffed to learn that the source material for Dalia Randolph’s stage adaptation is an obscure 1897 novel about a suave aristocrat who lives in a phony-sounding Eastern European country, transposing all his Ws for Vs.
We open with a large cast of costumes and people addressing the audience over an ominous original score by Christopher Salas. In order to build some pre-bloodsucking suspense, we’re told that this Mr. Dracula is bad news, and we’re about to hear his tale.
Jeff Bentley stars as Jonathan Harker, some kind of overdressed realtor who goes to “Transylvania” to sell Dracula a house in London. Already, the suspension of my disbelief is labored. Don’t home buyers usually meet the realtor at the property?
Like most monsters, Dracula is actually scarier when we can’t see him. Tony Lorenzo gamely twirls his cape and slathers on the creepy Balkan charm, but I found his accent distracting. He actually sounded vaguely Italian to my ears, but I might have imagined this because the program says that Lorenzo hails from Italy. All in all, I’m not sure this Dracula guy has much of a future in villainy. His characterization, costume and all, feels derivative of a certain arithmetically obsessed Sesame Street character.
Harker winds up captive in his client’s castle, where a guy can’t even get a decent shave without his host drooling all over him. Less objectionably, he’s subject to the whims of some naughty sharp-toothed nymphs who probably deserve more stage time, or perhaps their own movie. On Cinemax.
Back in England, Harker’s fiancée, Mina (a strong Meredith Martin), languishes on outdoor furniture while a trio of suitors vie for the affections of her nubile BFF Lucy (Megan Fitzpatrick). There’s also some kind of psychic connection between Dracula and the mental patient Renfield (Brian Ault) who (1) eats bugs and (2) totally steals the show.
Lucy’s somnabulatory ways and Harker’s dogged homecoming lead mostly to more talking, but eventually to the play’s centerpiece, in which ye olde monster expert Van Helsing (John Blomberg) shows all the young whippersnappers what this whole “vampire” thing is about. The Lucy scene is the show’s money shot, featuring some unsettling contortion and plenty of blood. And then more blood. If you don’t like to see blood sprayed everywhere, then I don’t know why you’re still reading this. Also, if all vampires looked like Lucy, this bloodsucking monster concept could be a real gold mine.
Source material aside, the production’s biggest flaw is its reliance on muffled audio recordings to convey characters’ inner monologues. Maybe there’s no better way to stage these, but the fact that I was trying to figure out a workaround is not a good sign. Overall, the production is a little ramshackle and could probably stand some streamlining. The adaptation—which is solid in its own right, if a bit talky—would be well served by fewer moving parts and more minimalist staging.
In a world where paranormal activity and zombies rule, there probably isn’t much room for these dangerous, alluring, immortal figures to get a foot in the door of the entertainment industry. Yet they’re awfully resilient, and I’ll be damned if they don’t have a certain lovable charm. If creative types like Dalia Randolph and director Scott Reeves keep chipping away, this vampire thing might just catch on.