Walking Shadow Theater Company breathes new (and yet eternal) life into Bram Stoker’s Dracula with their latest production, Drakul, written and directed by John Heimbuch. The play speculates about the lives of the book’s characters seven years after their final, violent encounter with the Greatest Vampire of All Time.
Moving backwards and forwards through time, the action centers on Mina (Melissa Anne Murphy), a young woman recently engaged to Jonathan (Ian Miller), an up-and-coming solicitor. After Jonathan disappears while on a business trip to see Prince Vlad Drakul (Charles Hubbell), Mina is eventually seduced by the Prince after he moves to London (Vlad is a busy vampire with ambitions to experience art, history, culture, etc. etc. and this alone causes one to like him despite the undead thing). Mina recovers her senses and, upon receiving a telegram from Jonathan, hurries off to “The Continent” to see him. But the damage was done and she carries her secret all through the following years, until Dr. John Seward (Wade Vaughn) publishes the diaries and journals of the group who searched for, and destroyed, the Prince.
|drakul, presented at red eye theater through february 26. for tickets ($18) and information, see walkingshadowcompany.org.|
As is so often the case with Walking Shadow productions, the company pairs a compelling story with strong performances. Charles Hubbell pulls off not only a spot-on Eastern European accent but also Bald-Man-As-Sex-Symbol, something we don’t often get to see in theater (notable exception: any production featuring Patrick Stewart). Melissa Anne Murphy as Mina is proper and restrained throughout, making her scenes of abandon with the Prince all that much more titillating (and gives us an inkling as to why she was recently voted Vita.mn’s 2011 Hotness Queen).
Joanna Harmon gives a charming performance as wide-eyed Miss Lucy Westenra, a young woman of 19 who is enamored of fashion, parties, admirers and fun. She is slowly drained of her life force during the first act, finally succumbing to the Prince (who, although something of Victorian-era hipster is still, after all, a vampire), and her absence is felt in the second. Where’d that fun-loving party girl go?
The play adheres to the diary format used in the book and shifts through time, sometimes replaying scenes familiar from the classic novel (or film adaptations) and then taking off in its own direction to explore how these characters fared in the years following their encounter with the supernatural monster. However, one need not have read the book to enjoy the play, as most of the story gets filled in over the course of the production (in fact, during intermission I discovered that several people seated around me were not aware that the novel also follows a “diaries and letters” format).
The sparsely set stage is quickly changed for each scene with often little more than a select table, phonograph or bench and a quick narration from one of the characters that serves to place us in time. These transformations keep the play, which covers much ground, moving. If there is a point at which the play drags, it is midway into the second act, while waiting for the secrets of Mina and Jonathan to be revealed to each other.
But perhaps that lack of patience on my part was due to living in the time of reality TV, when we only want to see who gets the rose, who gets voted off the island or who makes the hottest fashion statement. Surely this sort of secret, involving improprieties with vampires, is worth drawing out and giving more than passing consideration. After all, despite being otherworldly, it speaks directly to the human condition—making mistakes and seeking forgiveness—and the need to be not merely desired, but loved.