BAY VIEW'S  ALCHEMIST THEATRE

DRACULA: THE UNDEAD

 

ALCHEMIST PRODUCTIONS
presents a new, dark, twisted and truly frightening adaptation of the classic tale of good versus evil.

Perfect entertainment for the 2009 Halloween season,
DRACULA: THE UNDEAD guarrantees a horrific and sexy evening of entertainment for only $15!

Aaron Kopec, co-owner of The Alchemist, who has also served as co-writer/director of 2008's suspense drama "31" and artistic director of last season's completely sold-out production of "Jack The RIPPER" promises audiences a unique and exciting production.
Alchemist Productions continues to succeed in bringing audiences "big budget style" shows that are worthy of "the big stage" to the intimate Alchemist venue.



Note from the director:

In 2006 I was hired by Dale Gutzman (of Off The Wall Theatre) to aid in technical aspects and special effects for a production of "Dracula: Undead" in Bangkok, Thailand.
Upon returning home, I then acted as Jonathon Harker in Mr. Gutzman's Milwaukee production of the same show.
I fell in love with the concept of the script and the idea that there are gypsies who, every night as part of a ceremony, tell and act out the story of Dracula much like is done by followers of many organized religions.
Mr. Gutzman's production focused on the relationship between love and fear and how, throughout life, we are pushed and pulled by both.
In my re-adaptation, I've decided to focus on the pure, horrifying evil of this demon and his cult of followers.   There is some commentary on religion and love, but overall I promise an evening of scary, sexy, evil fun.

Last season I served as the production designer for the completely sold-out production of "RIPPER" and was asked by many of you to bring something of similar feeling back for the 2009 season.
Here it is, Ghouls!
I am boldly giving my word that this will be a production of which you've never experienced.
For those of you who are easily spooked, you will be terrified.
For those of you who are not readily shaken, I promise you (at the very least) good, creepy fun... with a bit of sex appeal thrown in for good measure! 

-Aaron Kopec
Alchemist Productions
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 CAST AND CREW:

 
Vampire Bride........Lauren Ashley
Ms Ashley has been performing in the Milwaukee area for over ten years. After taking a two-year hiatus to "find herself", or whatever it is those artsy people call it, Lauren is excited to return the stage. Refreshed, "found", and back with a vengeance.
   

 

  

Johnathon Harker / Nicu........Peter Blenski
Peter Blenski has been performing in "shadow

 casts" at the Times Cinema and Oriental Theater for over two years now.  He has performed in productions of Little Shop of Horrors (where he played Orin Scrivello, DDS), The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Cannibal! The Musical.  He is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Library Science.  This is his first time performing at the Alchemist Theatre.  Peter would like to thank his family for their support.





Costumes / Tickets........Erica Case
As one of the co-owners of the Alchemist, Erica spends most of her time behind the scenes and the bar. Erica is excited to be a part of such a great cast and crew and thinks it's going to be cool to be part of this show.





 

Dr. Seward........ANDY NORTH
Andy North is a science teacher, improviser and a longtime actor.
Audiences may recall his triumphant performances as Jim Hushpup in
GAMS AND GARTER-BELTS, Goriarty in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE THIEF OF
TIME and Rodrigo Borgia in CAKE! As always, he sends his love to Pepper.
 

 

 
Prop Manager........Drake Dorfner
As the youngest member of the Dracula crew, this is Drake’s second show at the Alchemist Theatre. He previously appeared in Rudolph, the pissed of reindeer. Drake is in 3rd grade at AE Burdick School of Music & Technology and enjoys music, dancing and playing video games. Drake is happy to be a part of Dracula.



Technical Manager........Griffon Dorfner
This is Griffon’s second show at the Alchemist Theatre, he previously appeared in Rudolph, the pissed of reindeer. Griffon is in 6th grade at AE Burdick School of Music & Technology and enjoys fishing, video games and listening to the Ramones. Griffon is excited to stretch his technical skills with the great cast and crew of Dracula.

 

 

  

Renfield........Jeremy Einecher
Jeremy is incredibly excited to be performing as RENFIELD in DRACULA: UNDEAD. Eineichner has previously performed in past alchemist productions as "RIPPER!", Sketch 22, Final Draft and the upcoming "Sexual Perversity in Chicago; as well as his memorable turn as Sam the Snowman in "Rudolph: The Pissed-Off Reindeer." Outside of the Alchemist he is a member of Milwaukee’s Rocky Horror Picture Show cast and “The Warped Cast”, both of which he will be putting on hold due to the midnight performances of DRACULA: The Undead.


 

Vampire Bride........Melissa Freson
Melissa Freson.  Born and raised in southeast Wisconsin.  Current student studying as a theatre major with a concentration in acting.  Began acting career in The Diary of Anne Frank, Starring as Anna Frank, and followed with performances in Immigrant Stories, Incorruptible, God Willing, & soon to be seen in Loose Canon's "Hamlet."  Melissa has been playing the violin for eleven years and is currently active in her college orchestra.  When she is not acting or making music, she enjoys still life drawing, cooking, traveling, & reading.  Her latest hook is Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series.  In the future, Melissa intends to step in front of the camera to see where it may take her.  "Theatre in itself has been a blessing to my life and will continue to be.  I take each opportunity as a learning experience taking me to new heights."  A special thanks to Aaron & the Alchemist Theatre for this amazing opportunity and her family for their unconditional love and support!

 

 

Vampire Bride........Desiree Gibson
Desiree' Gibson is an accomplished actress, having grown up in a mid-sized Miami theater company she quickly, though industriously, learned the art from.  She continues to accept roles which cultivate her growth as an artist and performer including characters in Eric Theis's "Temples Of Nadir" and the fort coming "Sexual Perversity In Chicago", also produced by the Alchemist. Past directors have lauded her as "a rock" and "an incessant, screaming harpy". Theater, for Ms. Gibson, is a transformative and personally emboldening process, both for audiences and preformer alike, something she desires for any unfortunates soul who may be reading this.

  

Corina........Beth Lewinski
Beth Lewinski is a Milwaukee native with a degree in Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT) and Anthropology from the University of Notre Dame.  Beth's past roles include Aunt Polly in Tom Sawyer, the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and the Princess in excerpts from Love's Labour's Lost (as part of a Shakespeare -In-Performance class at the Globe Theatre, London). Appearances in Alchemist productions include Sketch 22, Open Improv, Final Draft, and Rudolph The Pissed-Off Reindeer (as Mrs. Claus).  She is also a player at ComedySportz Milwaukee and a member of the Alchemist-based Long-Form Improv team, Meanwhile.  She wants to thank Aaron and everyone at the Alchemist for the opportunity to be in this ground-breaking production. Enjoy the show!

 



Nadia........Sammich Dittloff
This is Sammi's first show with The Alchemist, and she would like to thank her friends, family, and members of the community for supporting local theatre by coming to the show.. Past experiences include the Pink Banana One-Act Festival in March, The Vagina Monologues and 365 Days/365 Plays at DePauw University, Oliver! (Bet), The Music Man (Amaryllis), Sweet Charity, The Wizard of Oz, Guys and Dolls, and Grease! Sammi spent the summer filming Sweetmint, directed by Christian Kocinski, and is looking forward to many more Milwaukee adventures in the future.

 

  

Dr. Van Helsing........Douglas Smedbron
After leaving UW Platteville, Doug and a group of former theatre students came to Milwaukee in the late 70's and formed the Experience Theatre Company.  They performed in the old Century Hall building before it burned down.  After the demise of that experience, he has been a gypsy with many local groups including The Milwaukee Players, Waukesha Civic Theatre, and The Sunset Playhouse.  In recent years he has performed at Sunset, The Acacia Theatre, Cornerstone Theatre and the Boulevard Ensemble.  He is excited about working with a group of intense younger actors who are not reticent with their stylistic choices and love what they do.  He has always been fascinated by the Dracula legend and every Halloween digs out the Klaus Kinski Nosferatau to indulge in.

 

 

 

 


Vadoma........Jenna Wetzel
Jenna Wetzel warmly thanks Aaron and everyone at The Alchemist Theatre for the distinct pleasure of being in another show at this wonderful venue. Drama is her heart’s blood, so she’s glad to be playing a more serious role again, as Vadoma, the gypsy cult leader in “Dracula: The Undead.” She recently played Bootsie, the Southern maid with her own agenda in Charles Busch’s “Die Mommie Die” with Spiral Theatre. Recent and/or notable roles include the Mayor of Christmas Town in “Rudolph the Pissed-Off Reindeer” at The Alchemist Theatre, Sister James in “Doubt,” Polly Lawrence in “You Should Be So Lucky,” feminist porn producer Ruth Davis-Brier in Susan Marie Bischoff’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and the Angel in “Angels in America–Part 2: Perestroika.” She has also worked with Sketch 22 (III) and the 48-hour Film Festival. Jenna holds a BA in Theatre from Cardinal Stritch College, and other unrelated degrees.



Lucy........Liz Whitford
Liz Whitford is a Milwaukee native and, in the fall of 2008, made her Alchemist debut as Elizabeth Stride in the sold-out production of "Jack the RIPPER."  
 
In March of 2009, Liz played Brooke Ashton in Carte Blanche Studio’s production of “Noises Off.”  In 2008, Liz played Elizabeth Von Frankenstein in “The House of Frankenstein” and “The House of Dracula.” Liz will also be in Carte Blanche’s 2009 productions of “Cabaret” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
 
Recently, Liz had roles in The Pink Banana Theatre Company’s production “A One-Acts Festival of Relationship Madness” at the Broadway Theatre in the spring of 2009.
 
Liz is thrilled to be performing again at The Alchemist and looks forward to engaging in future productions here.



DRACULA........COUNT   ZSOLT  (played by Kirk Thomsen)
From the depths of the dark, Hungarian countryside, Count Zsolt brings his unique acting style to the Alchemist stage.   In order to remain in character, Count Zsolt spends his daylight hours resting in the damp cellar, sequestered from the rest of the cast.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 WHAT THEY SAID:

http://www.avclub.com/milwaukee/articles/aaron-kopec-the-man-behind-alchemist-theatre,33824//

Aaron Kopec: The man behind Alchemist Theatre

The Bay View theater founder talks about his new show, Dracula: The Undead

Self-taught impresario, scenic artist, director, and entrepreneur Aaron Kopec opened the Alchemist Theatre in 2007, seeing a need for small spaces where young, up-and-coming thespians could perform. Since then, the intimate Bay View venue has played host to comedy groups, experimental theater companies, film screenings, concerts, and drag shows, as well as in-house productions. Kopec's technical wizardry has transformed the tiny theater into a Victorian London street, a realistic ’60s suburban bungalow, and a decrepit alien spacecraft. Now, for Dracula: The Undead, which opens Thursday and runs through Nov. 7, he's creating a Transylvanian forest in which Gypsies perform a gruesome ritual for tourists, re-enacting the story of the hellish creature they worship and fear. The A.V. Club talked about the show and Alchemist Theatre with Kopec.

The A.V. Club: Dale Gutzman originally wrote this script for a production in Thailand, which you worked on. Why did you decide to stage the play here?

Aaron Kopec: Well, Dracula was the first show I'd ever seen, as a kid, and I remember being fascinated seeing adults on edge and feeling maybe that guy on stage was a really a vampire, and they got him for the show somehow. I think Dale reached for more than I wanted to; a little heavy-handed, maybe, with religion and sexuality. I just wanted to streamline it and have more fun with it. Also there were a lot of effects and sound things that I wanted to do, so I rewrote quite a bit of it, keeping the flavor of Dale's story.

AVC: What kind of experience do you want your audience to have?

AK: Ultimately, it’s a two-hour haunted house ride. [Laughs.] It does have blood, it has some really sexy moments, it has some really frightening moments, and we have some great comedians in the show as well, so in between those moments of sex, blood and horror, there are some great moments of levity that happen sometimes when you least expect it. It's all the fun of a haunted house without having to wait in line for three hours to get into it.

AVC: Your shows are always amazing to look at. What are the effects in this show?

AK: You're at the ruins of Castle Dracula, so there's ruins and there's branches. Just to make it more rustic we're removing all the plush covers of our theater seats, so it will look as though the theater itself is outdoors—which is risky, because people coming for the first time will think the place is a craphole. [Laughs.]

AVC: You've been doing theater here for two years, keeping your own space going. Has anything made you say, "Wow, I didn't expect that?”

AK: Mostly by how many different groups have worked out of here and cooperate to make things happen. Youngblood will be here next year, which is very cool. The number of calls and people wanting to put on their own productions is outstanding. There are certain days when you walk through here and there's people working on things in every possible place. There's some kind of acting class going on in the basement, people painting out on the back courtyard, people having a script reading in the lounge, rehearsal in the main theater. That's exciting to me and I didn't expect that to happen.

AVC: And you're totally for profit. You don't get grants.

AK: That's one thing that will perhaps be our downfall, but yeah. We pay our taxes, we don't take handouts, we do everything the way we want to do it—which is not always the best way—but we're stubborn. All the money we make pretty much goes to the art and the artists, including drink sales out in the bar. So when you come to see a show, have a cheap drink and you're supporting local art.

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http://www.expressmilwaukee.com/blog-4434-aaron-kopec-talks-dracula.html

AARON KOPEC TALKS DRACULA.
INTIMATE VAMPIRE SHOW OPENS TONIGHT.

Posted at 7:16 AM

In Section: Curtains Posted By: Russ Bickerstaff



As I recall, it was a bout a year ago that the Alchemist Theatre announced it would be staging a production of Dracula: The Undead. And it was about a year ago that I spoke to the Alchemist’s Aaron Kopec about the show. As I recall, Kopec told me he’d read Bram Stoker’s original novel a long time ago . . . from a really old copy that he’d had for years. Now he’s staging a production that opens tonight. I’d emailed him a few questions about the show a few weeks ago for this week’s preview:

Me: Who is playing what?

Aaron:

Lucy........Liz Whitford
Vadoma........Jenna Wetzel
Dr. Van Helsing........Douglas Smedbron
Nadia........Sammi Dittloff
Corina........Beth Lewinski
Vampire Bride........Rebekah Kopec-Farrell
Vampire Bride........Desiree Gibson
Vampire Bride........Melissa Freson
Renfield........Jeremy Einecher
Dr. Seward........Andy North
Johnathon Harker / Nicu........Peter Blenski
Vampire Bride........Lauren Ashley
Vampire Bride....... Cynthia Kmak

 

[Notice the title character is missing here. The show's website lists the actor as a Hungarian gentleman named "Count Zsolt."]


Me: You’re pushing the space to its full effect. What are we going to see?
 
Aaron: Well, since we are a small venue, we typically get away with about 5 or 6 lights running on 3 to 4 channels. For this production we are running over 25 lights - 9 of them with color-changing capability and a total of 60 channels. There are 156 different lighting cues, many of them made up of 6 or more micro fades to help set the mood for each moment of the production.  The play is basically told, like the book, in a series of vignettes.  And as such, we tried to make every moment of the show worthy of a snapshot that, if looked at, one would know exactly what is happening on stage.

Me: You'd mentioned what sounds like a pretty exhaustive score. Could you give me a few details?

Aaron: the score runs throughout and kind of pulsates just under the surface, building tension and then breaking through in a release at peak moments of action or drama.   some of it is very subtle and i attempted to weave a delicate beauty. some of it is wildly over-the-top and John Williams-esque.    some of it borrows bits and pieces directly from grungy, industrial cyberpunk albums. this is my first attempt at scoring a live production to this extent and overall i think it turned out wickedly cool.

Me: You will presumably be making maximum use of the space . . . what's the set like? Does it reach out into the audience like Ripper's did?
 
Aaron: the set does reach into the audience somewhat.  the audience is sitting directly in the middle of the ruin site of castle Dracula.  they are surrounded by broken-down walls, branches, night creatures... and vampire brides.
we have removed our pretty seat covers for this production and are exposing the very ugly, old theatre seats underneath to further the feeling of a makeshift "theatre" out in the Transylvanian forest.
There is very little "backstage" built into this production as the ruined walls form caverns that reach back to the very back edge of the actual theatre wall.
All of the action centers around a single coffin that is used as a bench, a dining table, a bed, a ship, a coach and, of course, a coffin. 

Me: How are you tweaking the script from what I saw at Off The Wall? [The Off The Wall Theatre's Dale Gutzman wrote the original script for this adaptation of Dracula, which debuted with a production staged in Bangkok in 2006 and Milwaukee a few years ago.]
 
Aaron: For better or worse, yes, the script is completely tweaked.
It is still the same, basic concept, but i think that i streamlined it a bit more.
I also pushed to create moments of levity.  There are a few great scenes where extreme tension is broken for a moment by a bit of comic relief.   I want people to know that it's ok to laugh.  That said, it's not a comedy.  It's a serious horror story told in a kind of dreamlike manner... but with a few moments of self-aware hilarity tossed in.

Me: costuming and make-up a really important in a show like this. How are those elements coming together?

Aaron: very well.   Erica [Case] has been working with everyone for the past 5 months or so.   we have some sponsorship from Halloween Express and most of the cast were wonderful enough to have some of the costume pieces. 
But let's face it, with 5 sexy vampire brides and Lucy soon joining them, there wasn't a lot of costuming that needed to be done. We saved a lot of money on fabric!

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http://www.examiner.com/x-12823-Milwaukee-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d14-Dracula-twice-as-dead-at-Bay-Views-Alchemist

DRACULA - TWICE AS DEAD AT BAY VIEW'S ALCHEMIST THEATRE

October 14, 8:00 PMMilwaukee Theater ExaminerMatthew Konkel

Dracula: The Undead

The Alchemist has quickly, within two years, become the every-actor theatre. They have shown their penchant and forte for staging edgier works, classics (Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago), and new plays (Invader? I Hardly Know Her!, Rudolph the Pissed-Off Reindeer). Alchemist is a unique theatre in town because it’s not dictated by an artistic entity that chooses a season of plays. The intimate, very intimate, I mean large-living-room-sized intimate, house is open to any and all community artists. If someone has a theatrical work in need of a space, Aaron Kopec and company are more than willing to listen and find a way to let them do it.

This Halloween season, Alchemist Theater is ripping open its doors to not one, but two productions centered around that most famous of fanged bloodsuckers. The first is Dracula: The Undead, a traditionally staged but– if you can believe it –sexier version of the antediluvian horror tale that opens tomorrow night. The other is a live radio play of Dracula presented by Alchemist and Wisconsin Hybrid Theater (WHT) opening Sunday, October 18th. The latter is advertised as a “comedic” family-friendly presentation of the story, the other is...um, not. Touting a host of vampire brides and demonic gypsy rituals, Dracula: The Undead sounds like a scream of a time. Best leave your friendly families at home for the first version about the Hoover of body fluid.

Intimacy is an understatement for Alchemist. Kopec, the production crew and performers are right to use this to their advantage to create a real intimate scare-fest. “This production of Dracula is really quite different, because instead of just going through the motions of performing the straight play, there are other "levels" of the story. You are not just watching the play, you are tourists watching gypsies perform a nightly ceremony where Mina, Lucy, Johnathon and Renfield are sacrificed to the demon creature Dracula. Like in many religious ceremonies, parts of "the master's" story is acted out as part of the ritual,” says Kopec.

Dracula: The Undead stars Alchemist veterans Jeremy Einecher (Rudolph), Desire' Gibson (Sexual Perversity), Beth Lewinski (Sexual Perversity), Liz Whitford (Ripper), Jenna Wetzel (Rudolph) and Andy North (Rudolph) as Dr. Seward. “The audience can look forward to some amazing visual effects, lightning and smoke and fire and gore, knife fights, spear fights, hatchet fights, lots of slinky people in slinky costumes. Somebody plays a beautiful violin solo. Also, it has possibly the best soundtrack you will hear in a show this year,” says North.

Making their Alchemist stage debuts in classic roles are Douglas Smedbron as Dr. Van Helsing and Peter Blenski as Johnathon Harker. Other leech-types in the cast include Lauren Ashley, Sammy Dittloff, Melissa Freson, Rebekah Kopec-Farrell, and Jazmine Vollmar

Also returning to Alchemist for a little blood-letting, movement-wise, is actress/choreographer Amie Losi. Losi was previously responsible for staging the beautifully intricate dance of Invader? I Hardly Know Her! She has now lent her hand– and feet –to the dark opening that tells the origin of Dracula. “It's a kind of stylized piece that was really fun and crazy to work on because Aaron had some ideas and I had some ideas and there was some written narration that had to be incorporated into the movement and it all totally fell together very quickly and in a really dark, different, gothic, creepy sort of way,” says Losi.

WHT is previously responsible for the successful live radio productions of Sherlock Holmes, The Wizard of Oz, and Phantom of the Opera. Dracula is complete with live sound effects and a comedic delivery.

Dracula: The Undead opens veins on October 15th and runs through November 7th. Dracula, the live radio play from WHT opens October 18th and runs through November 8th. For more information and to purchase tickets visit http://www.alchemisttheatre.com/

 --------------------------------------------------------------------http://www.expressmilwaukee.com/article-8337-lsdraculars-emerges-.html

DRACULA EMERGES IN BAY VIEW

Theater Preview

By Russ Bickerstaff

Given the short attention span of today’s pop culture, the continued prominence of Count Dracula is pretty remarkable. The famed vampire comes to life once more as Alchemist Theatre brings the production of Dracula: The Undead to its intimate Bay View stage on Oct. 15.

The Alchemist isn’t releasing the name of the actor portraying Dracula, but the rest of the cast includes a diverse body of talent. Local theater veteran Douglas Smedbron is set to play the wise and valiant Dr. Van Helsing, and frequent cinematic shadow cast member Peter Blenski will portray the heroic Jonathan Harker. The fair Lucy will be played by the talented Liz Whitford, who has made quite an impression with Carte Blanche Studios in recent months. The central cast will be joined by a number of attractive young women playing vampire brides.

The play, based on an original adaptation by Off the Wall Theatre Artistic Director Dale Gutzman, is a labor of love for the Alchemist’s Aaron Kopec. Kopec, who also worked on Gutzman’s production, has tweaked the script for this show. He aims to give the darkness a chance to breathe by adding moments of levity, which should keep the production from taking itself too seriously.

The tiny space of the Alchemist Theatre will lock in a real sense of horror. Some of this potential was realized in the Alchemist’s recent staging of Ripper. With Dracula, Kopec is attempting to use the theater to maximum effect by employing as much of the physical space as possible.

“The audience is sitting directly in the middle of the ruin site of castle Dracula,” Kopec says. “They are surrounded by broken-down walls, branches, night creatures…and vampire brides.”

A coffin serves as the focal point for the set. And with lighting and costumes that have been in development for nearly six months, the Alchemist is attempting to make every visual moment powerful. 

The Alchemist Theatre’s production of Dracula: The Undead runs Oct. 15 through Nov. 7.

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http://www.expressmilwaukee.com/blog-4440-dracula-with-the-alchemist.html

A Patchwork Darkness In Bay View

Posted at 12:19 PM

In Section: Curtains Posted By: Russ Bickerstaff

The Alchemist Theatre’s production of Dracula: The Undead is hugely entertaining. The thing is--it's every bit as inconsistent in quality as it is entertaining. Every aspect of the production from acting to pacing to overall design and everything in between is so breathtakingly inconsistent in quality as to make the production feel disjointed, disorienting and completely incohesive. Bits of it seem sutured together from various different productions of various different Dracula plays of various different themes, tones and levels of quality. That this actually ends up working to the production’s advantage may come across as a backhanded compliment, but the unique voice of this particular production of Dracula: The Undead comes from the fasciating patchwork quality of its presentation.

The play is presented not as an event in and of itself, but as a staged ritual that is being presented to placate the desires of the dark god Dracula. Each scene is set to be a different part of that ritual. The space between audience and actor, house and stage is quite permeable. Various incongruous elements of production alternate between being deadly serious and utterly comic, intentionally funny and (possibly) unintentionally funny, disturbing and campy, very repulsive and very sexy. The inconsistency, intended or not, plays interesting games with an audience’s expectations in a way that ends up being really effective at taking an audience out of its comfort zone. It’s a pretty rare occasion  when you find yourself in a theatre without knowing exactly what to expect at any given moment—and that alone is worth he price of admission here.


It’s not exactly faithful to Bram Stoker’s original novel, but many of the themes that have made the character so enduring over the years are manifest here in somewhat unexpected places. Nowhere is this more evident than the various manifestations of the Dracula character himself. The darkly charismatic countenance of malevolent nobility isn’t at all present in Kirk Thomsen’s performance in the title role. The guy’s got plenty of charisma and could have easily pulled off a noble darkness if he wanted to. Instead we get a portrayal of the title villain as a hairless, pale, sinewy shadow of death. He is more Count Orlok (from Nosferatu) than Count Dracula. He seems sickened by the evil that gives him his power. He’s frail, thin and perfectly sculpted—but not charismatic in a traditional sense. That characteristic charismatic face of evil is present in the shadows of the production, however. And, oddly enough, a lot of the darkly charismatic quality of evil comes in Jeremy Einecher’s performance as Dracula’s psychotic disciple Renfield.



Einecher has a really powerful frame, which lends a lot to the idea of him being given power by the night. Burdened by madness, Renfield is given much more melodramatic dialogue than any other character in the script. And more than any other actor in the ensemble, Einecher manages to make the more melodramatic bits of dialogue seem not only serious, but frighteningly natural and organic. In this respect, Einecher’s voice renders the powerful, darkly charismatic face of the title character we don’t see in Thomsen’s deliberately sickened portrayal of Dracula's physical form. 

Playing the role of heroes against the darkness, we have a host of characters. With the story’s heroism, the strange patchwork of the play makes itself most pronounced in the Dr. Seward/ Von Helsing pairing. In the hands of Douglas Smedbron, the valiant vampire hunter comes across as kind of a crazy old man who knows more than his demeanor and comportment would suggest. Andy North’s brilliantly pragmatic portrayal of the young Dr. Seward comes across as the more stable of the two heroes. He is merely assisting Von Helsing, but he is a completely well-adjusted man of science with just a shade of the more unstable elements of science. We see brief flashes of Dr. Frankenstein and . . . Nicola Tesla in his performance.



The victims of the evil are really well represented here as well. The tragedy of thse who are victimized by Dracula makes a powerful presence onstage in the form of those women who have been enslaved as vampire brides. Melissa Freson is particularly impressive here as a very petite, young woman with an exotic charm, speaking French and playing violin. With her we get a powerful sense that there's some sort of life that has been completely taken over by the evil. The process of the victimization becomes strikingly apparent in Liz Whitford’s portrayal of the beautiful, young Lucy. Her character gradually travels from idle interest in romance to more powerful and unsettling desires that slowly creep into her personality. At some point, she’s writhing around onstage in the midst of a spectral image of Dracula. When next we see her, she’s stained with blood. It’s a very striking transformation and Whitford carries it off brilliantly. 


Periodically the production checks-in with the gypsies who are delivering the story. Here the production straddles both comedy and drama. Beth Lewinski is a great deal of fun playing gypsy comedy--wordplay, a comic sense of reverence towards the title character. She’s fun. And there’s a darker end to the comedy as well—briefly sinister intonations in her voice. Jenna Wetzel plays the more serious end of the gypsy element as a very modern-looking gypsy clad in black leather.

There’s quite a bit of visual appeal to the production. Director Aaron Kopec delivers the play as a series of static visuals. There are countless iconic visual moments here, aided by an exhaustively shifting lighting scheme and some really compelling and compellingly simple visual effects. In a space that size, projected photographic images of a spectral Kirk Thomsen as Dracula look positively haunting. It’s the simplest lighting effect in the book—as old as photography, but it doesn’t fail here. The Aaron Kopec soundtrack adds a huge amount to the production as well, particularly when the base pumps through the tiny space like a massive pulse. The music itself is a strange combination of Elfman-esque symphonic sounds, the hard-edge industrial of Nine Inch Nails or Frontline Assembly and . . . something that reminded me a bit of Tangerine Dream in there somewhere. . .

I recall the various elements of production coming together in a particularly potent way with respect to the Dracula origin we see the gypsies relate after intermission. Everybody’s wearing masks in an abstract, narrated history behind the evil. We see the well-meaning nobleman who is to become Dracula in what bears a striking resemblance to a converted Guy Fawkes mask. Intended or not, the Guy Fawkes reference adds something to the idea that great evil comes from the most noble of intentions. That element was a really interesting bit that could’ve been brilliantly played-up in a more cohesive production, but the wild, untested energies of this Dracula production end up being a great deal of fun anyway.