?Beneath the guignol familiarity of the Bram Stoker tale is tremendous room for the creative spirit to soar,? writes director Jordan Hue in his notes for Dreamcatcher Theatreworks? production of Steven Dietz?s ?Dracula?. Quite true, and in this vein Hue realized his vision to the fullest. Walking into the intimate space of the Gene Frankel Theatre, the audience is thrust into an aslyum draped in white and decorated colorfully with bloody foot and hand prints. A sense of entrapment, claustrophobia, and isolation pulses through the theatre, as Renfield Brett Maughan sits with a bottle of wine waiting to address the masses. Maughan speaks with intensity as he delivers his first monologue and sets the action of the play. The story is the familiar tale, good girls Mina and Lucy, played with naivete and innocence by Caitlin Gold and Elan Cassandra respectively, are taken prey by the mysterious Count Dracula David Decuir. To the rescue come their lovers Dr. John Seward John Beck, and Jonathan Harker Thomas Leverton and of course Van Helsing Arthur Harold who teaches us all to believe in vampires. What?s different here, is that the playing area is entirely set in Seward?s aslyum which creates a far more creepy element than your typical Transylvanian castle. We get the impression that far more disturbing events take place here, which is depicted through the intense performance of Maughan?s Renfield, coupled with the appropriately isolated set design by Kelly Feustel. Uncomfortable? Good. Dietz script lacks much of the cheese factor that is so often apparent in the telling of this story, which is refreshing to say the least. This ?Dracula" explores the relationship between these tortured characters on a level we haven?t really seen before. Further diminishing the cliche we have the performance of the striking David Decuir as the ominous Count Dracula. He doesn?t just ?vant to suck your blood,? he wants to seduce and ravish you, and everyone is more than okay with that. Much can also be said for Decuir?s accent work, which is smooth and believable. Decuir has this ability to draw the audience and fellow actors into his game with his eyes, which more than works out for everyone involved. The intensity of the entire company was a plus, and bodes well for the futures of these young actors. Thomas Leverton does an interesting turn as the confused, and then sudden vampire slayer Jonathan Harker. I almost long to see him in a comedy as his erratic and physical timing would be perfect for something farcical. He is convincing in this particular role, it just seems that comedy may be his forte. Speaking of comic relief, we are given just that by the supporting cast billed as ?Maids and Vampire Vixens? played with dexterity by Alexandra Hellquist, Christina Rosse, and Cameron Moir. These three provide a much needed element of creepy fun and physical comedy with their slumped postures and hissing effects. Minion Renfield is superbly played by Brett Maughan, who serves as a narrator as sorts. His insanity and complexity are depicted very well, as he seems to understand exactly what is wrong with him. His moments of erraticism and longing for release are so well played that they never come off as ?over the top? but just crazy enough. Overall, the piece was exceptionally cast thanks to the talent of Dan O?Phalen of Hats Off Casting. As far as costumes are concerned, Nina Vartanian got it exactly right with her use of capes and straight jackets, although some of the ladies had mobility issues with their skirts. This was made up for by the red cape sported by the Count however, which was an eye-catcher. It further spoke to Decuir?s seductive character. The lighting of the piece was pulled off quite effectively by Jana Mattioli. Dim, and hopeless plots fit just right here. In case you are unaware, this isn?t a happy go lucky show. This notion is intensified strongly by the effects of cutting and bleeding, thanks to make up and blood designer Emma Servant. All in all, Jordan Hue guides his company to deliver a dark yet fun night at the theatre. Moments of intensity and fear happened at all the right times, and the audience definitely left with belief in the creed that ?all men are mad in some way or the other,? and for some reason...hungry. -Kevin Hansen
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