Forget the whirling cape, waggling eyebrows and heavily accented "I vant to drink your blood, muwahahahaha."
The Chemainus Theatre Festival's Dracula, running now until Nov. 9, has many of the images and characters we know well from various incarnations of the infamous bloodsucker, but manages to avoid most of the cheesy melodramatics often associated with the role from those Grade B Hollywood flicks of the Fifties and Sixties.
You'll recognize a lot of features in the Chemainus version. It's set in the asylum run by Dr. Seward, only in this version the good doctor is female, played by CTF veteran Erin Ormond. Her salon/office is a brilliant piece of stage decor with shelves filled with ancient tomes, bottles in which float nasty looking items and a few quirky pieces of what seem to be antique medical equipment. Kudos to set designer Pam Johnson for this wonderful setting.
In this retelling of Bram Stoker's classic horror tale, based on a 1920's play adaptation of the novel, Dracula (Ian Butcher) is a rather romantic and definitely sensual character, strong and forceful and more than a little frightening.
Butcher manages to avoid the cliche stylings that have often been part of Dracula depictions, creating a being for whom we feel some sympathy - a definite attraction, but also revulsion.
He has a deeply romantic passion for Lucy Seward (Masae Day), daughter of Dr. Seward. Lucy's fiance Jonathan Harker (Daryl King) is the strong heroic type who desperately wants to save his ever-more-feeble Lucy, but who is unable to truly imagine the depths of depravity that embodies the vampire.
Coming to the rescue is Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Ted Cole), called in by Dr. Seward. Between these two there is not only a deep desire to save Lucy but also what seems to be romantic undercurrents, though these never go beyond a few pauses and yearning looks.
The asylum's nurse is Miss Wells (Michelle Lieffertz), played partly for comic relief and also to show the insidious power that Dracula has over people's minds.
And rounding out the cast is the bizarre mental patient Renfield (Ian Harmon) who plays 'highly disturbed' convincingly, evoking a lot of pity for a man who sees himself losing his mind but also troubled for what he fears is his loss of soul as well.
Costumes are also wonderful in this play, creating a real sense of time and romance, and the special effects add a great deal to the sense of mystery and terror.
For tickets to Dracula, contact CTF at 1-800-565-7738 or chemainustheatre.ca.
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