The Denver Center for the Performing Arts offers Dracula during the month of October, when audience members are most likely to be in the mood for chilling stories of the undead. This stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula follows the journey of Jonathan Harker as he travels to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula, and Harker’s plot to stop Dracula’s violence in London, with the help of Abraham Van Helsing and Harker’s fiancee Mina.
Classic Adaptation Picks Up Speed in Second Act
HE SAID: Dracula is THE classic “monster”. Some may accuse the Denver Center of trying to cash in on the Twilight rage, but whether or not that is true, DCTC has a lot to be proud of in their latest offering. Beautiful technical elements, complete with some nice special effects, and terrific acting made the script come alive. There are faster, more modern adaptations out there, but this is Brahm Stoker’s Dracula, not Twilight or Blade, so the language suited the period and the narrations drew me in as I was lead through the letters and journals that pieced together the “historical” accounts of the story.
SHE SAID: DCTC went a traditional route, and didn’t update the material in any way. The structure of the piece is strong, and so ultimately their production of this classic is, well, classy. One pitfall when presenting a period piece such as this is that today’s audiences are much more vampire-savvy then they used to be. A lot of the exposition therefore feels like it moves quite slowly. Van Helsing, for example, dramatically explains some of the rules that govern vampires’ behavior that are well-known by today’s audiences. The second act, however, had no such problem, and the excitement of the fight sequences and special effects made it more than worth the wait through the somewhat slow first act.
Design Elements Create Beautiful and Eerie World
HE SAID: The special effects were fun for the most part. Stakes through the heart, fake blood galore, and a healthy pyrotechnic budget all amounted to some nice surprises throughout the piece (mostly in the second act). The effects may be nothing we haven’t seen before, but they were things we don’t see very often, making them still somewhat surprising. I do wish they had gone crazy with the effects involving Dracula, but that character is actually a small amount of the show (believe it or not), so this short-coming by no means ruined the piece.
SHE SAID: The design team certainly was up to the task of creating a creepy, mysterious atmosphere for the story. The set design by Vicki Smith was quite beautiful and kept me fascinated (aside from some late closing trap doors). The sound design by Craig Breitenbach was impeccable with plenty of subtle background sounds that really helped create the location. The lighting design by Don Darnutzer always kept me on my toes, and added a little bit of surprise and suspense in that spooky way we all love this time of year.
Women Portray Vampire Mistresses at Their Best
HE SAID: Michael McKenzie as Renfield stood out in this production, in part due to his fantastic comedic timing and in part due to his character written in a category of its own as kind of comedic relief from an otherwise dark play. Margaret Loesser Robinson as Mina Harker was wonderful to watch as she journeyed through love struck naiveté, heartfelt worry, ending up a strong powerful determined woman.
SHE SAID: I have to say my favorite performances of the evening were the from the two principle women. Sofia Jean Gomez as Lucy and Robinson as Mina were both relatable, embodying both femininity and strength. Although the special effects in the second act were great, the story wouldn’t have been half as engaging if I hadn’t been so drawn in by Mina’s character. Like many of the men onstage, I was rooting for them to find Dracula so that she might be spared.
Performances and Design Make Dracula Come to Life in Time for Halloween
THEY SAID: Some will find the adaptation DCTC chose to produce a tad on the slow side, and while the first act could have picked up a bit, overall they did a fine job with the more classic take. The special effects weren’t especially original, but they were fun. The beautiful design elements create a mysterious world that helped draw us into the story. On the whole, there some splendid performances telling a timeless tale made for a chilling night appropriate for the coming Halloween festivities.
For a full plot synopsis and history of the book and adaptations of Dracula, see the wikipedia article. Dracula presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company plays through October 31 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.