As might be expected, a black coffin stretches across the middle of the room. As might not be expected, an attendant darts around the theater right before the show warning everyone in the front row that they'll probably get doused with blood. "Don't worry, though," she says. "It washes out." This is supposed to comfort us?
Thankfully my wife and I have some experience with this kind of thing. We've taken a seat in the second row, and we're wearing a brand new matching set of REI ponchos. We've been warned this could get messy.
Just in time for All Hallow's Eve, the Tricklock Company is putting up Mac Wellman's freak fest adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic blood-sucking yarn. This is one you won't want to miss.
Our story begins with an Englishman named Jonathan Harker (Chad Brummett) visiting a sickly, creepy looking fellow named Count Dracula (Joe Pesce) while on a business trip in Transylvania. Something about the encounter causes Harker to lose his mind. He's shipped back to England where—to the horror of his wife, Mina (Kerry Morrigan)—he's placed in an asylum under the care of Doctor Seward (Kevin R. Elder).
While Mina eases her sorrow by sniffing chloral hydrate, Seward goes to work on his new patient. At a loss to explain Harker's new diet of flies, spiders and sparrows, the doctor calls in a Dutch specialist named Van Helsing (Byron Laurie). An expert in these matters, Van Helsing quickly diagnoses Harker as a victim of vampirism. Cue eerie organ music.
Meanwhile, the good Count moves to England and immediately begins driving down property values. He finds a luscious victim in Mina's virginal friend, Lucy (Kate Schroeder). Before you can say "bite me," Schroeder is screwing everyone in sight and dancing around the stage in her underwear.
Then things really get out of hand.
Wellman's Dracula is goofy and campy. It frequently resorts to cheap laughs. It's both extremely gory and outrageously raunchy. Despite all this, his play is fueled by flights of lush poetic language. At the same time, it also explores in some depth the nature of sexual and psychological repression. In other words, Wellman's out for a lot more here than just sex and gore.
Given their impressive track record, it's no surprise that the Tricklock Company is up to the challenge of staging this odd little number. There are so many good performances in the show it's hard to know where to begin.
Chad Brummett as Harker is fantastic before he goes nuts. Once he's placed in a padded cell with a metal grate over his head, he totally flies off the handle. This boy knows how to do crazy, creating a character that's such a balls-out lunatic it's hard to take your eyes off him.
Kevin R. Elder as Seward probably gets the most laughs. His take on the wormy, dysfunctional doctor is as hilarious as it is spastic. As a counterpoint to his character, Morrigan's turn as the crushed, drug-addled Mina is painfully moving. Her performance provides some emotional ballast to this otherwise demented play.
Schroeder is effective both as a goody two shoes during the ominous first half of the play and as a bitten, bloody, strip-teasing nympho during the chaotic second half. She also uses a crisp Victorian diction that really makes Wellman's lines sing.
Finally, Pesce's portrayal of Dracula is genuinely freakish and terrifying. He's like a hissing albino snake in silk robes, a truly inspired portrait of the damned. At the same time, Pesce succeeds in exuding the charisma necessary for a convincing Dracula.
All the lesser characters—from Matthew Andrade's drunken groundskeeper to Connor White's dumb American cowboy to the three sexy vampyrette's played by Juli Etheridge, Summer Olsson and Katy Houska—pulled their own weight and then some. Cool costumes, set innovations and prop surprises add to the spooky goth ambiance. Director Denise Schultz, of course, deserves plenty of credit for bringing it all together.
I probably don't have to tell you that this show isn't in any way suitable for children. Adults, though, especially perverted adults, which describes most of us, will dig this. Don't believe what they tell you: The undead really can dance.