Geva Theatre's "Dracula" is a bloody good time


Presented by Geva Theatre Center

Location 75 Woodbury Blvd., Rochester, NY 14607

When October 11 - November 13

Runtime: 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission

Tickets Start at $25.

Review By Leah Stacy

After Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, read "Dracula" in June 1897, he penned a personal letter to Bram Stoker.

"(Dracula) is the very best story of diablerie which I have read for many years. It is really wonderful how with so much exciting interest over so long a book there is never an anticlimax," he wrote.

Those who witness Geva Theatre's latest production, Steven Dietz's "Dracula," will likely feel the same way.

From the time the theater is plunged into darkness until the final bows, the play's action does not stop -- although hearts in the audience may.

The story of Count Dracula, a Transylvanian vampire who ravages London, has remained wildly popular since its inception, inspiring more than 215 movies and numerous stage adaptations. Why? Because a classic is something that resounds with generations. Themes of seduction, adventure, fear, religion and horror will always be relevant.

Director Peter Amster should be commended for the entire production, but his casting decisions in particular standout.  Every actor is perfectly placed, from four local college students' cameos to the angst-ridden, brilliant Dr. Seward (Erik Hellman), who may have stepped out of the novel itself, he's so convincing in the role. And from the moment female leads Lucy (Jennifer Joan Thompson) and Mina (Lee Stark) appear onstage, the audience is torn between which to fall more in love with. Thompson portrays an ethereal, selfish beauty, while Stark captures the fervent purity of a woman in love.

Dracula (Wade McCollum) is both despicable villain and tempter, expertly played by ... an actor who usually performs in musicals? It's true. (One can only hope the role of The Phantom of the Opera awaits him at some point.)

Showcasing the talented actors is a set designed by  Robert Mark Morgan, coupled with the beauty of Heather K. Fleming's wig design and Tracy Korman's seductive costumes.

Special effects are used heavily in the show. There's blood onstage, and the actors drink it enthusiastically. The mentally insane Renfield (played by an equally captivating and comedic Dieterich Gray) craves the blood of animals. He eats a rat and a bird, hiccuping feathers.

Aiding the vampires' travels from the shadows of Transylvania to the cobbled streets of London is Jonathan Harker (Jason Bradley), a gentle Englishman who was contacted by the Count to secure real estate. Harker is driven mad during his stay at the Count's castle, and the details are revealed in an exquisite flashback scene while Mina and Van Helsing (Tom McElroy) read aloud from his journal.

Other than a slight musical misfire, onstage rocks that looked decidedly plastic and Van Helsing's wavering accent (is it British, or German?) there was little to dislike about the performance.

In all, a bloody good time.


Other things to note:

* Prologue chats: Offered with nearly every Mainstage show. Cast member Tom McElroy (Van Helsing) gave a brief history of "Dracula" and its author, Bram Stoker, who was a theater critic and producer turned novelist.

*Pre-orders: Patrons can pre-order (and prepay) concessions for intermission. The concessions are placed on trays with numbers and voila! No standing in line.

*Parking is free in the garage adjacent to the theater.

*Geva will partner with the Red Cross on October 31 for a blood drive.

*Here's more vampire stuff in Rochester!

((Psst... You can read my preview of Rochester City Ballet's May 2011 production of "The Blood Countess" here.))