Review: DRACULA - Ghoulishly Fun

By: Nov. 23, 2015
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DRACULA by Steven Dietz, adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker, produced by Different Stages and playing at The Vortex is pure ghoulish fun.
Vampires in general and DRACULA in particular have become cultural icons since Bram Stoker first penned his novel in 1897. Our fascination with the title monster has inspired countless books, movies and television shows, from INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE to DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT. Bathed in blood, the anti hero Count Dracula has captured our imagination and dark desires in his undead grasp. Immortality seems to have been bestowed on vampires in popular culture as there are continual incarnations around every corner. When Stoker's novel was introduced to the public, a less jaded Victorian populace was terrified by the blood sucking central character who stalked beautiful young women, luring them to their deaths. A modern audience is hardly frightened by such a well known tale, instead, we enjoy the diabolical glee of the story. In Dietz's version, partially told in spoken correspondence, we learn that Mina (Taylor Flanagan) is engaged to Jonathan Harker (Will Douglas) and Lucy (Jessica Riley) has several suitors. Harker has traveled to meet an elderly unknown client in far off Transylvania where he encounters the enigmatic Count Dracula (JM Specht) and is struck by a mysterious illness. Meanwhile, Dr. Seward proposes to Lucy and is rejected but she falls ill and requires his attendance at her bedside. Professor Van Helsing (Beau Paul) is called to consult on Lucy's case only to discover her ailment is something supernatural and her condition is dire. Mina rushes to Transylvania to find her fiancé in a nearly catatonic state. It's only when Mina and Harker return to England is it discovered that Count Dracula has traveled ahead of them and become youthful on the blood of his latest victims. If you love garlic necklaces, flaming crosses or the good old stake through the heart, you won't be disappointed in the play's climax.
The Different Stages production is enjoyable and includes quite a few moments that elicit groans and giggles from the audience. As Renfield (Charles Stites) opens the show, setting the tone of slightly over the top camp that doesn't take itself too seriously. Trey Deason is wonderful as Lucy's suitor, Dr. Seward, who strives to save her while dealing with the madman Renfield in his asylum. As the title Count, JM Specht, is a combination of charming and creepy that is a delight. Kudos to the trio of Vampire Vixens, Sara Rashelle, Bridget Farias Gates and Jessica Medina who vamp for all they're worth at the Count's castle and along with Craig Kanne, double as set crew, seamlessly keeping the action going during excellent scene changes. Also worthy of mention is Patrick Anthony's lighting design where color is used to maximum effect and looks stunning with the constant flow of smoke billowing from above. Unfortunately it's the young ladies that are disappointing, Flanagan and Riley fail to hold a decent British accent for more than a few words at a time. Their acting is up to snuff but the lack of consistent dialect is distracting and puzzling in otherwise talented actors.
Ultimately DRACULA entertains and takes us back to the origin of a brilliant story with thrills and giggles along the way.

DRACULA by Steven Deitz
Different Stages at The Vortex Theatre, 2307 Manor Rd, Austin
RUNNING TIME: 2.5 Hours with one intermission.
PERFORMANCES: November 20 - December 12, 2015, Thursday thru Saturday at 8:00PM, Sunday at 6:00PM
TICKETS: $20 to $30


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