Theatre In The Park’s latest incarnation of the demon of the night, Dracula, aims to send chills up and down your spine. This adaptation of the classic Bram Stoker tale, written and directed Ira David Wood III, reflects much of the spooky fun of the old horror movies he grew up watching.
In this version, the story revolves around Van Helsing’s pursuit of Count Dracula. The blood-sucking creature has already claimed one victim, Lucy, and a second victim, Mina is in danger. Under Wood’s direction, the stylized acting and deliberate pacing, mixed with some heightened special effects, make for an entertaining theater experience.
Most of the first act builds to the entrance of Dracula, played by Ira David Wood IV. Tony Pender’s Van Helsing is passionate in his quest to vanquish the unearthly monster; his performance is dominating throughout. Daryl Ray Carliles is authentically creepy in his role as Renfield, the mad patient and devoted follower of Dracula. His ravings are all the more riveting as he bounces about the set, his whole body quivering with knowledge of unholy deeds.
John Honeycutt’s Dr. Seward, the father of Mina, offers a distinctive portrait of the reserved English gentleman, while James Miller’s Jonathan, Mina’s fiance, marks the role with fervent devotion. Danny and Kathy Norris add some respite from the drama’s seriousness in their roles as the house servants, Jacob Wells and Mrs. Wells.
Kelly McConkey’s Lucy emerges from her coffin briefly to demonstrate devotion to her master. She gives an appropriately ethereal performance as one of the newly undead. Harper Cleland’s Mina receives more stage time and is hypnotically convincing in her attempt to resist the Count’s charm, even as she is seduced by him.
Of course, the drama’s tension ratchets up with the arrival of Dracula, and it does not disappoint. Smoke, unearthly lit eyes and even some cheers greet the arrival of the captivating Wood IV at the end of the first act. His Count is a mesmerizing showman, his voice is magnified, and he is supremely confident of his superiority. He plays up the allure and fascination of his character, giving full rein to the creature’s sensual nature and attraction. And just like the Victorian audiences who came before us, we marvel at him. It’s easy to see why Wood III calls him the “James Bond of monsters” in this week’s RDU on Stage podcast episode.
The other star of this show is technical director Nathaniel Conti and the many special effects that complement the action onstage. Spooky music, realistic rain sounds, fog-like smoke billowing onto the stage, floating props, gunshots, and bursts of flame add to the haunted mansion feel of the theater. The set design also conjures the desired mood for each of the three acts.
Theatre in the Park’s rendition of Dracula definitely provides the right amount of candy corn and spooky fun to put you in the Halloween spirit… that is if you dare to come face-to-face with the Count.