Neutropenia. Thrombocytopenia. Hemophilia. None of those pernicious diseases of the blood can afflict Curtain Call Theater’s current production of “Dracula.” The production is unthreatened and immune, because there is no blood. Well, none that spurts, sprays or stains with the mark of evil and raises the heat of fear and passion and sex!
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Road, Latham
WHEN: Through Feb. 9
HOW MUCH: $23
MORE INFO: 518-877-7529, www.curtaincalltheatre.com
The absence of blood that oozes is an artistic choice. But when it is one of the few points that mar an otherwise well-presented production of the play, it really needs to be mentioned. To be fair, blood is present, but it is “indicated.” A bolt of red fabric gets laid upon a body. Ribbons of red are pinned to a corset of a lady “under the influence.” But these efforts do little to present the essence vital to the story — an essence that the title character refers to as “life” itself. For this crucial element to be “indicated,” especially when it is offered without dash or flourish, gives a clear idea of what malady this production suffers from — theatrical anemia.
Strapped in closely to the plotline of the Dracula novel, playwright Steven Dietz successfully captures Stoker’s dark myth with unarched dialogue, unspoken palpable fear and more importantly removes most of the camp that has crept into the tale’s numerous retellings. But Dietz’ adaptation is written to gush blood, buckets full, actually.
Placing the “indicated” blood aside, those of you who are sucked in by the spell of the prince of darkness will find much to enjoy. The wonderfully spooky aural landscape scored by Jay Spriggs is outstanding. Greg Mitchell’s stark set of wafting curtains, which cloak and veil, hints at all sort of murky menace, ruffling through countless shifting scenes. A grand fashion parade of bleak and muted Victorian style, courtesy of Denise Massman’s tasteful eye, is well-designed and executed. And most successfully, Lily Fossner’s lighting design is a marvel of masking, shadow and artful reveal. The design of this show is extraordinarily fine and most appropriate.
Additionally, all of the actors are committed to telling the tale. Ian LaChance expertly explores Jonathan Harker’s torment and fear. Pat Rooney and Dana Goodknight prove a good match as the girlish Lucy and her beau Dr. Seward. Armando Morales is appropriately mysterious as the exotic Count. And Beth Pietrangelo as Mina and Kevin Gardner as Van Helsing offer richly textured portrayals that confirm they’re among the finest talent on area stages.
But it is Kris Anderson’s take on the pathetic Redfield that possesses the right entry into the piece. Balancing the scare and urgency that the evening requires, with childlike wonder and an unnerving “told-you-so twitch,” Anderson’s oddball oracle is a delight.
Director Steven Fletcher moves the evening along without incident or stumble, but moves it along without a great deal of tension despite some clever stagecraft and shadow play. Dietz applies the use of three brides of Dracula (or vixens as he labels them) to spur the action forward and to act as a constant presence of lurking evil. Fletcher employs these three to wear their corsets and tattered threads with appropriate allure, but imbues them with little threat or deviltry. A noted and sadly missed opportunity.
I understand the concern and the avoidance of stage blood — it is sticky, expensive, stains everything (usually permanently) and often tastes terrible. But nothing explodes primal emotions the way that blood can. Except sex. And both have been excised on this excursion into darkness, leaving little in this production to get your blood boiling — sexually, fearfully or otherwise. And that is truly a shame because it’s a great looking show.
For those of you who love the story, but hate the gore and the sex, this production will definitely appeal. If you are looking for something that will make you squirm, scream and cringe with fear, you might have success looking elsewhere. Perhaps Bravo will pick up “The Real Housewives of Transylvania” for a spring timeslot.