REVIEW WRITTEN BY CHRISTINA PERRYMAN
‘Tis the season for spooking and scary. Perhaps one of the most chilling tales is that of Count Dracula. In the dead of night, the evil King of Vampires creeps into the room of unsuspecting victims, leaving a string of destruction as he builds his undead army. Audiences can witness Dracula’s killer plan on stage at Hedgerow Theatre.
“Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” adapted by John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane, directed by Dan Hodge, opens in the rural English countryside. Dr. Steward is unable to determine the cause of his daughter, Lucy’s, illness — the same illness her friend died from a short time ago. Lucy has all the signs of anemia without having the disease. She also has nightmares of a mist and two red, evil eyes. A desperate Steward calls on the help of his old friend, Professor Van Helsing. Van Helsing introduces a different idea. Perhaps Lucy is not suffering an easily explained physical illness. Perhaps she has fallen prey to a vampire. With the help of Steward and John Harker, Lucy’s fiancé, Van Helsing sets out to discover the vampire and, if possible, eradicate it. Will she succeed before it’s too late?
Once again, Hedgerow assembled a strong cast for this thrilling tale. Allison Bloechl was fantastic as Lucy. Bloechl allowed Lucy’s fear of her “nightmares” to creep into her voice as well as her body language. The difference between scared, timid Lucy and bold, brazen Lucy was well done. Ned Pryce was terrific as John Harker, Lucy’s intended. Pryce nailed the part of concerned, worried boyfriend. I liked how he and John Lopes (Dr. Steward) took opposing sides when Van Helsin introduced the vampire concept. Pryce’s Harker was quick to jump on the idea, believing it possible from the start, while Lopes’ Steward was believably skeptical. Lopes portrayed Dr. Steward as a loving father and curious doctor. Josh Portera brought a bit of comic relief as Mr. Butterworth, one of the asylum’s attendants and the one in charge of Renfield. His encounters with the maid, well done by Meghan Winch, were as funny, as was his resignation scene.
Mark Swift was impressive as Renfield. Swift is excellent in comedy and infused equal parts of ridiculous and serious in his character. He could go from raving lunatic to lucid and fearful in the blink of eye, without missing a beat. His crazed laughter was haunting. Jennifer Summerfield was fierce as Dr. Van Helsing. She was take charge, yet is gentle during her interactions with Lucy and her family. Summerfield is a talented actress. She brings a lot of energy to her scenes and proved an undaunted foe to Dracula. However, her accent did not work.
J. Hernandez was mesmerizing as the wicked count. He was charming yet terrifying. Hernandez easily commanded the stage. His demeanor was compelling and precise.
The show, despite having two intermissions, moved quickly. The production toed the line between horror and comedy and sometimes the comedy felt too contrived, such as the beginning of act two. Between Swift and Portera, the comic relief was there in abundance. Some of the more serious scenes were almost interrupted by attempts to lighten what didn’t need to be lightened. When Harker, Steward and Van Helsing face off with Dracula, Swift is off to the side and his hilarious facial expression distracts from the menacing showdown.
Costumes, by Kayla Speedy, were particularly well done for Lucy and Dracula. The set, by Zoran Kovcic, was minimalistic. Grey Kelsey’s and Susan Wefel’s props were notable. The history and natural ambiance of Hedgerow lends itself to a spooky, frightening production. While parts of the theatre were well utilized (the bare wall showing through the set, the final scene set in mostly darkness), the space itself could have been played up even better. Lighting designer Robin Stamey helped set an eerie stage.