Theatre season ushered in with ‘Dracula’

Dracula-theatre

The 21st century has brought a new era for vampires in our culture, but one must not forget the original who started the hype. The adaptation of "Dracula," directed by Mark Cole, is brought to life on stage by an outstanding cast in Waterman Theatre.

The story, set in 1933 Purley, England, begins with the audience finding out there is a rare blood disease going around and a young woman named Lucy (Jessica Quindlen) has it. Her father, Dr. Seward (Knate Roy), sends for an old friend, Dr. Van Helsing (Sarah Sterling), to help him rid his daughter of the disease. Not long after she arrives, Van Helsing claims vampires are behind the spreading illness. Seward, Helsing and Lucy’s boyfriend, Jonathan Harker (Dylan Duffy), team up to find Dracula (Samuel Austin) in order to destroy him.

Surprisingly, even though the play is called "Dracula" and is partly about young Lucy falling under his spell, neither are portrayed as the main characters. The production focused on each and every character.

However, one character seemed to stand apart from the rest; Dr. Van Helsing is uncharacteristically played by a woman. With this gender switch, Sterling actually plays a strong and smart figure, unafraid of fighting for her cause. Her performance is nothing less than exceptional and she fits the character to a T, making it feel like Van Helsing should have always been a woman.

Renfield, Dr. Seward’s patient (Eric Shuler), is another intriguing character. Shuler becomes one with his crazed character. The drunken looseness of his body language and the dazed expressions on his face convince the audience that his character is really insane. And there is another side to Renfield. The audience sees that although the man is insane, he also still has a trace of sanity remaining. This came out when he tried to answer Van Helsing’s questions of about the mysterious illnesses. He teases the audience with suggestive dialogue, but he never fully comes out and verbalizes the answer on the tip of his tongue. There’s always something that is stopping him, right up to the climactic moment.

The play is not all drama; it has comic moments too. Renfield’s character is particularly funny as he utilizes his dialogue and Fits included tangents. The few subtle interactions between Dracula’s minion, The Waif (Ariel Marcus) and other members of the cast also provide amusing anecdotes.

The technical elements greatly contributed to the show. The music sets the mood for the scenes, thanks to sound designer Steve Shull. It gives the simple, yet impressive set an authentic 1930s feel.

The costumes brought a sense of authenticity to not only the time period, but to the characters themselves. The looks, designed by Kitty Macey, were smart, sassy and suave.

Even the lighting of the stage played its part. Designed by Tim Baumgartner, the red and white lighting perfectly contrasted each other. The white lighting evoked a sense of purity in the characters, and the red foreshadowed and symbolize Dracula’s bloodlust soul and his deviation.

Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston wrote their stage adaptation of the novel "Dracula," by Bram Stoker, in 1927. Cole chose to add some of his own twists and turns to it, creating a play within a play. Cole’s version was set in 1930s England, which was when the actual play was performed.

While entertaining, the audience will most likely be confused by these additions, especially if they haven’t read or seen the original play. For example, the Waif is the narrator throughout most of the play, but she also represents another character. In a few scenes she switches between characters, a difficult transition for the audience to understand.

"Dracula" is definitely worth seeing. Every aspect of the play is nearly perfect and will grab the audience’s attention. The play within a play idea is clever, and it fits in nicely with the Halloween spirit.

"Dracula" opens Friday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. in Waterman Theatre. Other performances are Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 17 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for Oswego State students, $12 for other students and seniors and $14 for adults.