Yet another incarnation of Dracula. The Telluride Repertory Theatre and Paul Lucas in association with HERE have brought their new concept of Nosferatu--based on a combination of Bram Stoker's Dracula and F. W. Murnau's silent film adaptation Nosferatu--to New York City. Billed as a multi-media piece, but including only a couple of scene-setting slides, the performance was a combination of dance, instrumental music, and acting. This Nosferatu, though it has problems, is quite a sight to behold.
The story is familiar with a few minor changes. Jonathan Harker, ingenue Mina's husband (or fiancée in some versions) is now Ellen Harker, Mina's sister. It is Ellen who, influenced by the evil Renfield, journeys to Transylvania to meet with potential real estate buyer Count Orlock (a.k.a. Dracula or Nosferatu). Trapped in the Count's secluded castle, Ellen falls prey to the Vampire, while back home her sister Mina has violent premonitions of her sister's fate. Nosferatu, like an animal attracted to Mina's scent and spirit, travels to her homeland bringing his "plague" with him. Mina soon realizes that she must sacrifice her life to stop Nosferatu with her goodness.
Other versions of the Dracula story give the vampire different motivations. In Coppola's film, Mina was the spitting image (and spirit) of Dracula's dead wife. Bela Lugosi portrayed Dracula as a sexy, sophisticated ladies man. Nowadays, vampires are vinyl-clad, club-hopping 20-somethings on a rampage for sex and blood. In Nosferatu the legend is simple: it is Mina's goodness and light that destroy the darkness of the Vampire.
It is the classic tale of good versus evil, told in stark black and white. And it is certainly the first theater piece I have ever seen in black and white. The incredible look is achieved thanks to the wonderful costume and set design by François Tomsu, complimented by Andy Grondahl's makeup design. All colors vanish from the stage--even the actors' skin tones are masked by a white Kabuki-type base and brown rings around the eyes. The amorphous costumes range from brown and black to white. Together they produce a startling effect as you realize that theirs is a colorless world.
Nosferatu is a compelling story, so familiar and so basic it can be told without words. This is what director René Migliaccio attempts to do. The production opens with a hair-raising dance performed by the "chorus": 14 physical actors dressed as phantoms (or vampires) cavorting around the stage in a combination of ecstasy, pain, and fear. The chorus is completely the director's invention, and it reappears at key moments in the piece to reinforce the action and mirror the leads' emotions. It is a trick that really works, particularly towards the end when the chorus dances right up to the audience in a collective chorale orgy.