Review: DRACULA at Elmwood Playhouse

The Infamous Vampire Haunts Nyack.

By: Sep. 23, 2023
Review: DRACULA at Elmwood Playhouse

A bloodthirsty creature is haunting our Hudson Valley! Dracula, the play written by By Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston is currently chilling audiences at The Elmwood Playhouse in Nyack. It is a supernatural tale of Count Dracula, the most notorious of all Vampires.
We are at once thrilled and fascinated by these folkloric creatures. Vampires have been part of storytelling traditions for centuries, but they gained prominence in the public imagination with the publication of Bram Stoker’s chilling 1897 horror novel, Dracula. This novel is considered to be the most essential work of vampire fiction. The novel and its numerous adaptations remain popular to this day.
Stoker’s novel was first adapted for the stage by Hamilton Deane in 1924, then revised by John L. Balderston in 1927. The play opened at London’s Little Theatre in July 1927. It opened on Broadway at the Fulton Theatre in October 1927 with Bela Lugosi in the title role. Dracula was adapted for film in 1931 starring Lugosi. In 1977, a Broadway revival starred Frank Langella and he reprised the role of the sinister count in the 1979 movie.


The play follows the timeless vampire, Dracula, as he travels from Transylvania to London in search of new blood. It is set in a sanatorium outside London run by Dr. John Seward. A mysterious illness has afflicted Seward’s daughter, Lucy, who is inexplicably frail, anemic and suffers bad dreams. He summons Professor Abraham Van Helsing to help find the cause and a cure before it’s too late.
Arriving at the sanatorium, He first encounters the strange behavior of Renfield, a lunatic patient with an overwhelming need to devour insects for their blood. Renfield begs to be sent to an insane asylum, under constant guard, in the hopes of saving his soul from the evil grasp of Dracula. Upon examining Lucy, Van Helsing discovers that she has, surprise, two suspicious puncture wounds in her neck.
Van Helsing soon discovers the sinister root of her mysterious illness and is engulfed in a battle of good versus evil. He warns the others of Dracula’s fearful powers, regardless of the visitor’s charms and aristocracy. “The strength of the vampire, is that people will not believe in him.” Van Helsing also discovers that the vampire has transported six coffins from Transylvania that contain the native soil crucial to Dracula’s survival. Is it too late to save Lucy from a horrible fate?

Larry Brustofski, swathed in black cloak, oozes sinister evil as Count Dracula. Bruce Apar has the right touch of gravity as Van Helsing, the Dutch professor and scientist who is a true believer in the deadly powers of the vampires of European folklore. Arthur Chill as the frightened, deranged Renfield. Aaron Newcome as the naïve but sincere Harker. Sommer Barstow as the increasingly helpless Lucy Seward and Derek Tarson portrayed her exasperated and fearful father. Desiree Cobb-Olori and Meg Renton and as the saucy and victimized maids, and Donal Lehane as the befuddled orderly, who is plagued by Renfield’smysterious ability to escape as well as the comings and goings of bats and wolves that seemingly appear out of nowhere.

Set in England in 1914, the overall look of the show is nicely evoked by Set Designer, Rob Ward; Seward’s office in the Sanatorium, Lucy’s Bedroom and Dracula’s lair are all effective and opulent. Janet Fenton’s costumes capture the period, and are a wonder to behold. The special effects, the copious amounts of dry ice, blood, fangs, crucifixes and garlic were ubiquitous along with Impressive, creepy sounds and ominous music, (Ben Soos) and effective spooky lighting (Mike Gnazzo). The entire crew, led by stage managers, Nancy Logan and Kathy McCarthy Simpson excels in propelling the story with their technical precision.
Michael Edan ably directed, although this reviewer wishes he could have evoked more convincing portrayals from some of his players. Still, it was fun to watch the actors sink their teeth into Stoker’s enduring tale of terror.
At the finale, Bruce Apar addresses the audience directly as he warns, “When you arrive home tonight and see a face at the window, remember that these things do exist.” We leave the theater with a sense of foreboding that accompanies us home and back to our own reality.

DRACULA in three acts with two intermissions, runs September 8 through October 7. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.with a Thursday night performance on October 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30/ $27 Senior/Youth/Military.
Elmwood Playhouse, a nonprofit community theater in Rockland County NY, provides a local, intimate setting for live theatre, located on 10 Park Street in Nyack, NY. For reservations, information or directions, call the Elmwood Playhouse Box Office at (845) 353-1313, or visit www.elmwoodplayhouse.com

photo credit: Omar Kozarsky
pictured Lawrence Brustofski as Dracula, Arthur Chill as Renfield


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