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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Rob Arbogast does him justice as the eponymous Count, with truly frightening snarls before he sinks his teeth into his sweetheart's neck and an excellent, one can only assume, Transylvanian accent. Arbogast is my kind of vampire, despite being as youthful as Edward in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.
Sawyer has taken some liberties with the play, written by Hamilton Dean and John L. Balderston, particularly towards the end. Although vampires are viewed more sympathetically in today's literature, it's still a little shocking to see a more romantic ending than the Fanged One has usually merited. Though updated to the 1920s, we could do without comely Lucy's bikini under a baby doll, a jarringly anachronistic sight. (Maybe Lovelace flew in through the window like a bat.)
However, this production has too many wonderfully theatrical and innovative touches to disdain, beginning with Desma Murphy's splendid setting whose backdrop is an adaptation of Henry Fuseli's famous painting The Nightmare, in which a demon crouches erotically on the body of a woman. In the Six Degrees of Separation category, Fuseli was once the erotic obsession of Mary Wolstonecraft whose daughter, Mary Shelley, wrote Frankenstein. Luke Moyer's flickering lighting creeps into many levels and many mirrors to create a perfect ambiance.
The production begins with a naked Dracula rising from his grave to sink his teeth into beautiful blonde Mina. Several truly ear-shattering screams rev up the excitement which has the pace and suspense of a first-rate horror movie. Dr. Van Helsing is played by Sawyer staple Joe Hart who brings gravitas to the role of the main vampire hunter. A new character, Dr. Lily Seward, is played by Karesa McElheny who stalks around the stage wreathed in cigarette smoke and a formidable hauteur. Her innocent and lovely daughter Lucy (Darcy Jo Martin) is Dracula's immortal beloved whom he attempts to wrest from her fiancé Jonathan Harker, played by J. R. Mangels who chooses to give the part all the classical heroism of a 1920s Arrow Shirt ad.
The mad fly-loving Renfield is played with manic glee by Alex Robert Holmes who is chased around the stage by hulking attendant Butterworth (Chad Coe). Sawyer has blocked them everywhere, including halfway up the wall where they hang out windows and torment each other. Adorable little Jake Gardner plays Lawrence, the child victim of the Blond Menace, Mina (Mara Marini), now a luscious full-fledged vampirette. Tahni DeLong plays the mysterious maid Wells.
br> At a sleek 90 minutes, this 21st century incarnation of Dracularevives all the charm that has made him a perennial symbol of our repressed erotic dreams and the impetus for an age-long battle between conventional good and scintillating evil.