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Review: Steven Dietz Adaptation Of The Bram Stoker Classic DRACULA Commands the Stage in True Gothic-Noir Fashion at Jobsite Theater

Review: Steven Dietz Adaptation Of The Bram Stoker Classic DRACULA Commands the Stage in True Gothic-Noir Fashion at Jobsite Theater

GILES DAVIES AND COMPANY TAKE A BITE OUT OF THE SEASON WITH A SEARING ADAPTATION THAT IS ASTOUNDING AND PULSE RACING AT EVERY TURN.

"We are all of us invented.

We are all of us cobbled together from cartilage and dust.

Few of us know with certainty the name of our maker.

But, I do..." (RENFIELD)

"In 1897, at age fifty, Bram Stoker published a book that would, in time,

become his definitive work. In doing so, he made me. And he gave to me

a name: Renfield. And, he gave me something more. Something that so

many of you wish for, pray for, beg for--- and, yet, will never attain.

Immortality..." (RENFIELD)

Dracula, a novel written by Bram Stoker and published in 1897, became Stoker's most definitive work. Told in an epistolary style through letters, journal entries, and newspaper articles, Stoker's novel is never told through the eyes of a single protagonist. Our tale begins with a businessman by the name of Jonathan Harker traveling to the Transylvanian Castle of one Count Dracula, in order to procure a deed. Having merely escaped the castle with his life, after finding out the Count is a Vampire, Harker makes his way home to England, where the Count has now taken up residence with plans to plague the small seaside town of Whitby.

Dracula, a work of Gothic Fiction has been renowned by Scholars for depicting gender roles, sexuality, and race amidst the Victorian Era. The work of fiction is in Public Domain and has been adapted in various works on film well over 30 times. Many of the characters portrayed in the book have been used throughout all types of media.

Steven Dietz adaptation of the Stoker novel was first published in 1996. the play itself never played Broadway, but Dietz considers it to be his most successful work financially. Closely following the events of the novel, Dietz's play does deviate slightly for stylistic purposes. Renfield serves as the Narrator to the events of the play, only two Brides (Vixens) are scripted but casting can vary based on production needs, and Dracula poses as Jonathan Harker in a conversation with Seward upon his arrival to London.

Stoker's novel and Dietz's play make reference to St. George's Day. A holiday observed by Orthodox Religions. In the book, it is stated that evil occurrences happen on the Eve of St. George's. The belief therein lies that moroi(Living Vampires), witches, and other creatures of malevolence grab all the evil power between midnight and dawn break of the holy day, so in that sense it is not advised to go out at night.

A cast of seven performers make up the principal characters in Dietz's play and three understudies/Ensemble members add to the texture of the world in which the company created. The aforementioned Harker is a businessman who set out to the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania to procure some land from Count Dracula. Mina, Harker's fiancee is friends with Lucy a girl who has fallen for the willful woes of one Psychologist Seward. Dracula is of course the Gothic Antagonist of our tale, and Van Helsing is the former professor of Seward who specializes in Supernatural Illness and is called upon by Seward. Rounding out the company are two Brides (Vixens), a servant man of Seward's, and Renfield the play's Narrator.

Following a Two Act Structure, the play begins with Harker's departure to Transylvania, only to have him return after escaping by his life. Mina and Harker exchange letters of love and ambiguity until Harker's letters stop coming altogether. While Lucy is falling in love with John Seward, Seward is examining and trying to unlock the mind of Renfield a patient at the local asylum. Seward enlists the help of a former professor in Van Helsing once evil begins to plague the small town. One by one in a sequence of events, Seward, Harker, Van Helsing, and Mina set out to end the reign of terror plagued by Count Dracula and hopefully save their lives.

From top to bottom this company is top-notch and creates a stellar through-line from start to finish.

Giles Davies is enigmatic as Dracula, completely resonating fear at his every turn. There is almost a seductive quality trying to be painted within his character, and for me, it didn't quite read as seductive. His menacing quality is felt in every word, every breath, every move to strike sheer terror in all who step in his wake. Giles is always exceptional in every moment on stage and his Dracula is up there as one of my favorite portrayals.

As Lucy, Kayla Witoshynsky is wonderful. Having last seen them onstage in last season's Romeo & Juliet, this was a strong performance from the start. Lucy had a clearly developed arc from start to finish, and their stunning portrayal of "Bloofer Lady," is a bloody masterpiece.

Noa Friedman as Mina is exquisite here. Her love for Jonathan shines through, and the moments between her and Lucy show true friendship. She is a great addition to the company.

As Renfield, Paul Potenza is so shockingly brilliant it's that damn good. No matter which way you spin it, you cannot keep your eyes off of him. His deep dive into the psychosis of his character makes for an astounding performance that needs to be seen. Following a chilling prologue, we see his mind succumb to the torment of isolation, and falling deeper into madness. Not a more shocking turn has been seen since his portrayal of the MC in Shockeheaded Peter, his performance is something made of nightmares, and is spine- tingling good at every level.

Newt Rametta as Harker is truly in his element. Last seen as Benvolio in last season's Romeo & Juliet, Newt is wonderful here. You feel the love he has for Mina, and he will go to the ends of the Earth to see to her safety. Newt truly is a master of craft here, from spot on dialect, to truly encapsulating the epistolary performance in which the tale is driven, Jonathan Harker is portrayed in the most perfect of light here.

The always exceptional Katrina Stevenson is wonderful as Van Helsing. Wearing a double-duty hat as the productions Costumer, she is no stranger to the Jobsite Arena. Always captivating in every moment, Katrina once again proves why she is a staple on Bay Area stages and Jobsite alike, and she should be exceptionally proud of her work here.

As John Seward, Daniel Lennox Jr. is astounding in every moment to moment. His Seward is grounded, stoic, and impassioned in his beliefs. Having last seen him perform in Jobsite's production of A Clockwork Orange, I found his presence to be more utilized here. He is a great addition to the company.

Rounding out the company are the Vixen's Logan Franke, and Pauline Lara. Each brings a sultry quality to the production and work beautifully to weave the story together in moments throughout. Jared Sellick is another great addition to the company and helps move the plot of the story along.

Director David Jenkins and the fine folks at Jobsite deliver an exceptionally rounded company to tell this classic tale. Perfectly fitting to put us in the spirit of Halloween. Jo Averill-Snell's stunning, and evocative lighting design capture the gothic/noir nature of the piece and really help drive the moments of the tale home for the audience. Brian Smallheer's set design lends well to the world of the show creating an old world feel on a classic tale. It blends multiple worlds together seamlessly, from the Castle to the Asylum, and Lucy's Quarters, each set on a functional staging concept that allows for seamless transitions throughout. Costume Design by Katrina Stevenson evokes the Gothic feeling of the play with every stitch. I like the blending of the hard and soft lines, the softness of the whites, and the stark contrast of the blacks and reds, creating a fully realized world amongst the character's Victorian lifestyles. Jeremy Douglass once again is a master of his craft in sound design and helps move the story along in exciting ways.

Albeit this is first preview out of the gate, and from where my seats were housed, only a few minor issues on the technical side arose. There was one moment in act one when light came up on Renfield as Dracula and another character was leaving, not sure if the cue was jumped or what have you, but it almost seemed as if Dracula and the other character needed to find their way off-stage prior to Renfield's light coming up. Another small issue was the use of the side door being left open momentarily as it took the illusion out with the illuminated exit sign and seeing the characters exiting the space. Minor kinks in an otherwise flawlessly performed preview following tech.

If you are looking for the perfect show to put you in the mood for the spooky season look no further than the heart-pounding, fear-inducing, exquisitely produced Dracula by the fine folks at Jobsite Theater. If you plan to purchase tickets I would make haste and get thee to the Straz Center Box Office or visit strazcenter.org, as Dracula is quickly becoming Jobsite's second highest-grossing show in 24 years of producing, and these tickets like the midnight hour will not be around for long.

This Company is exceptional, the cast is exquisite and you do not want to miss this truly beautiful production! Still haunting my thoughts even the next day, Jobsite has once again proved why they are a force to be reckoned with.

"I want your fear. For your fear, like a current, rushes through your body. Your fear makes your heart pound, it renders your veins rich and full. Your fear hemorrhages deliciously within you."

PHOTO CREDIT: PRITCHARD PHOTOGRAPHY




From This Author - Drew Eberhard


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