We find it fun to see a familiar story retold. Likewise, it’s fun to see old “friends” with new, yet familiar faces. If you agree, check out Theatre in the Park’s Dracula. You won’t be disappointed. Ira David Wood III masterly directs his own adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. This production is light enough to be funny and dark enough to be scary. Sexual overtones? It’s got them, too.
The Familiar Story Retold:
On Sept. 11th, the opening-night audience was greeted by ushers dressed as vampires; then a chilling disembodied voice welcomed us, telling us (among other things) where the exits are and that we “might need them.”
The curtain opens to the funeral service for Lucy Westenra, because you have to start somewhere. Wood’s adaptation, like that of the title character, starts with death, continues with life-and-death, and then ends with death-and-life.
The set (designed by Stephen J. Larson and built by Jeffrey Nugent) is rich and very detailed. During the first of two 10-minute intermissions, it converts easily to a room in Dr. John Seward’s house. Sound (also designed by David Wood) and lighting (designed by Larson) create the eerie effects that are to be expected. Costumes (by Shawn Stewart-Larson) are very period and well-done; each costume suits the character.
And what would a vampire story be like without smoke? And mirrors? And fire? And blood? And, yes, a bat?
The Old Friends:
As the Bauhaus song tells us: “Bela Lugosi’s dead.” No problem — Ira David Wood IV is striking as Count Dracula. No over-doing of the accent (as some Dracula’s often do). He carries himself regally and seductively — omnipotent, yet vulnerable.
Anthony Hopkins and Hugh Jackman not available? No problem — D. Anthony Pender pulls off Dr. Van Helsing with aplomb, not over-doing his Dutch accent. Pender’s Van Helsing visibly struggles with questions of strategy for dealing with the problem of Dracula.
The series of showdowns between Dracula and Van Helsing are well-staged. The crucial one takes place in the dark of night, but it feels very much like “high noon.”
Equally well-staged is the seduction scene between Dracula and Mina Seward (played by Caroline Millington). Beautiful, and beautifully costumed, Millington shows us both sides of Mina — the side that lives in her fiancé’s world and the side that longs to enter that of the Count. Yes, the scene involves blood.
James Miller gives us a Jonathan Harker who is concerned for, protective of, and willing to fight for his fiancée. As Dr. John Seward, John Honeycutt easily convinces us of his character’s initial skepticism and his later resolve.
The madman Renfield? Edward Freeman is delightful. Which side is he on? When? And why?
And what a masterful stroke: casting Danny and Kathy Norris as Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Wells! The two portray the role of the servants-who-know-the-legend to the hilt. They are loyal, yet frightened. (Note: We want to commend these two actors because their characters have strikingly similar accents [as one would expect from a married couple in those days when everyone married someone from their own village]. Again: the accents are not overdone.)
In this adaptation, the role of Lucy is really just a cameo, but pay attention to Kelly McConkey’s posture, her gestures, and her body language.
The opening-night audience loved every minute. It’s a pity that the show does not run the week of Halloween!
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 14th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article35182941.html; Sept. 12th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7578; Sept. 9th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/dracula/Event?oid=4307962; Sept. 8th Raleigh, NC Time Warner Cable News Central NC interview with adapter and director Ira David Wood III and actor Ira David Wood IV, conducted by Caroline Blair: http://www.twcnews.com/nc/triangle-sandhills/in-depth-interview/2015/09/8/in-depth-dracula-.html; and Aug. 25th Raleigh, NC WRAL interview with adapter and director Ira David Wood III and actor Ira David Wood IV, conducted by Bill Leslie: http://www.wral.com/wral-tv/video/14853494/.
Theatre in the Park presents Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, adapted and directed by Ira David Wood III, at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17-19, 3 p.m. Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25-26, and 3 p.m. Sept. 27 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22 ($16 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except $15 per person for groups of 10 or more. BOX OFFICE: 919-831-6058 or http://www.etix.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6058 or http://theatreinthepark.com/whatson/group-sales.
SHOW: http://theatreinthepark.com/calendar/event/47 and https://www.facebook.com/events/394218904108191/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/, and https://www.facebook.com/theatreintheparkraleigh, https://twitter.com/TheatreInPark, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_in_the_Park.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair/walker accessible, and large-print playbills are usually available.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19th, performance.
Dracula (1897 horror novel): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula (Wikipedia).
Abraham “Bram” Stoker ( Irish novelist, 1847-1912): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bram_Stoker (Wikipedia).
Ira David Wood III (adapter and director and TIP artistic and executive director): http://theatreinthepark.com/about/whos-who; (TIP bio), https://www.facebook.com/iradavidwood; (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/idwiii; (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_David_Wood_III (Wikipedia).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.