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Home / Theater Reviews / Dracula
reviewed by David Hopes
Director: Andrew Gall
Starring: Jeff Bachar, Bray Creech, Shea Davis, Lorraine Larocque
Where: Highland Repertory Theatre
When: Thurs-Sat through Oct. 25.
Ticket price: $10-$20
Information: 257-4530

For Highland Rep's bold new Dracula to have succeeded fully, the lightning-swift and closely spaced scene changes would have had to have worked as smoothly as cut-aways in the movies. The character of Count Dracula would have had to possess an unanswerable menace, a fatal power equivalent to the swoonings and emotings of the characters whom he was supposed to have affected.

The Wortham tech, on the night I was there, was not up to the task. Additionally, Jeff Bachar was a Dracula without menace, without internal power, without any manifest quality that could ruin the lives of so many. My theater companion asked, "Is he supposed to be funny?" The answer was "no," but there was enough doubt that the question could be asked.

Adapters Jeff Messer and Andrew Gall got a whole lot of things right. Dracula is a novel told in letters and journals, and instead of dispensing with the convention altogether, as most adaptations do, they honored it, and the journal-making or letter-writing scenes contextualize the play both in its time period and in the lives of its characters.

Messer and Gall chose to focus on the horror of the victims rather than on the glamor of the monster. This makes their adaptation, I think, utterly unique, and often deeply moving. They are aided in the creation of this mood but an outstanding cast of victims, notably Bray Creech as Renfield, who brings a full humanity and a damaged intelligence to a roll which might have been simply a gargoyle. The women in this cast are exceptionally good, Shea Davis' Lucy and Lorraine Larocque's Mina being convincing and muscular at every turn.

But the end point of this conception of Dracula is that the Count himself shifts away from the center of the stage, an exterior menace, an imported disease in need of no more intelligible motivation than a bacillus. Perhaps the greatest boldness for the script would be to take exactly that route, to remove the Count from the stage altogether and let the audience watch the unraveling of men and women under the influence of horror which, perhaps, must remain faceless to be horrible enough.

The climactic moments of the play are almost ludicrous, with the characters shouting bits of exposition from the book just so we know into what terror they are descending, smiting one another with some of the least convincing stage-fighting I have ever seen. I think we would have believed them ten times more, tasted the danger ten times more if we saw horror-stricken souls silently descending into an empty room.