BWW Review: DRACULA at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre
- On Friday, October 6, (appropriately a night of a harvest moon), I had the pleasure of seeing a stellar performance of DRACULA at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre, in Berlin, CT. John Mattera's adaptation of the book by Bram Stoker is brought to life under the direction of Kris McMurray. This production delivers on all levels, truly bringing honor to one of the most classic horror stories of all time.
The horror ambiance is strongly set in the theatre, with excellent sound effects, including sudden and unexpected loud crashes of thunder that will have you jumping out of your seat! The characters are dressed in black and white (other than the inside red of Dracula's cape), creating the feeling of classic black and white film. The set, brilliantly designed and constructed by James J. Moran is strongly detailed, depicting the inside of a castle, enhancing the mood of being in a location where strange activity may abound. The windows are utilized well, especially as a warning for some of Dracula's entrances. The realistic appearance of a flying bat prop, complete with chilling sound effects, brings increased intensity to the feel of the moments, combining with the rest of the theatrical elements present to draw the audience right into the story, as if we are there, and at risk of the same potential danger that the characters face.
The story starts with Dr. Seward, portrayed by Russell Fish, distraught over the sudden illness of his daughter, Lucy, an illness that contains the same symptoms of something that recently took the life of another young woman in the area. John, played by Chris Brooks, is engaged to Lucy and also desires an explanation to what is ailing her, and the cure. Van Helsing, a Dutch doctor, who Michael Gilbride becomes on stage, complete with a strong accent, believes that Lucy may be a victim of vampire bites, a suggestion that he acknowledges would make most authorities think he was a loony, but that he nevertheless believes is a strong possibility. Dr. Seward is initially very skeptical, but not completely dismissive. The strong stage chemistry between these three highly talented actors makes them a powerful team of likeable central protagonists.
Tracey Brown gives an amazing performance as Lucy, who initially is a very calm and relaxed character, facing an illness, but who suddenly has a personality transformation that is so radical that it feels like she is an entirely different person, a deliberate change that works incredibly well to depict the magnitude of the danger she is facing.
Alex Papacoda stars as Dracula who creates an eerie feeling from the very moments of his calculated entrances. Dracula shows mastery in his deception, initially trying to come across as normal, despite the depths of depravity of his character.
The maid, Ms. Wells, gets hypnotized by Dracula, a scene enhanced by lighting effects that draw the audience right into the moment. Tracey Costa, as Ms. Wells, totally sells the scene by her authentic reaction to the hypnosis, making the audience feel as if she really was hypnotized.
Butterworth is an intriguing character who Tony Galli provides the perfect level of mystique to, with a strong accent and unusual mannerisms that make his motives intentionally questionable. Butterworth is the guard of Renfield, a patient of Dr. Seward's who mysteriously manages to escape from his room every night, despite Butterworth's efforts to stop this from happening.
Josh Luszczak steals the show as Renfield, an extremely quirky mental patient who occasionally and suddenly becomes physically violent, elevating the intensity of Renfield's creepiness that already radiates throughout his voice, hunched over appearance, erratic movements, and reputation for eating flies and spiders. Renfield is conflicted between his own will of not wanting to harm anyone, and the mind and action controlling will of Dracula, whose power Renfield is under, despite Renfield trying to fight it. Renfield's abilities to warn everyone about the degree of danger that Dracula poses are limited by Dracula's ability to remotely hinder Renfield's words and actions.
Through all the horror, positive messages abound in this show. The ultimate supreme power of God is acknowledged and extolled above that of evil and above that of Earthly authorities who try to combat evil. A (simulated) consecrated Eucharist is used by Van Helsing, with dispensation, to temporarily ward away Dracula, further showing that there is no evil in the world that is more powerful than the goodness manifest through God's presence. Furthermore, empathy's role in assisting attitudes of mercy and forgiveness is displayed by Lucy. When John communicates a goal of wanting to defeat Dracula, with Dracula's soul going to Hell, Lucy, while acknowledging the need to defeat Dracula, asks for prayers, mercy, and forgiveness for Dracula, not wishing for the condemnation of the soul of a person who, like her, was victimized.
DRACULA is scheduled to continue to run at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT, every Friday and Saturday at 8:00 P.M. through November 4. I highly recommend this show, particularly for fans of good horror, done well. If you are not used to the horror genre in plays, I highly recommend starting with this one, as you will get to see horror performed at its best, at a show in which fresh blood is always welcome. To purchase tickets, please visit the theatre's website at http://ctcabaret.com/.