Play by Steven Dietz, based on Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name
Directed by David Ballantyne
The character of Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s book Dracula (1897) emerged at a time in Europe when books like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) and Arthur Conan Doyles’ A Study in Scarlet (1887), (the first to introduce the character of Sherlock Holmes), were rising in popularity. Sigmund Freud’s book Studies on Hysteria (1895), was published and one of the first films, The Devil in a Convent by Georges Méliès was released in 1899.
Our fascination with therianthropy, humans who transform into beasts, spans across cultures and time. There has long been a history of myths around gods turning into beasts and later on, men into werewolves and vampires, as some academic writers have noted: ‘The gods of the classical pantheon were forever changing into animal form in order to seduce unwitting maidens’. Dracula is portrayed as myth, man, beast and demon, all who feed on, desire control over and drink the blood of humans, in particular, young women. The nature of man is transformed as he becomes beast, trapped between worlds, and the nature of woman is absorbed by the beast as part of that transformation.
Pentacle Theatre’s production of the play Dracula takes the audience on a supernatural journey where the sound of the wind can run shivers down your spine. The setting is 1897 England and the play opens to a prologue given by Renfield (Jay Howe), a patient in a mental asylum. I guess that should be the ‘heads up’ straight away! We are then transported into a bedroom where Lucy (Rachel Hedges) and Mina (Emily Abbey), share stories of their suitors like giggly schoolgirls, egging each other on to share their ‘secret’ feelings around love. Their world soon disintegrates as vampires, doctors and mental patients collide during the full moon. ‘A Shadowy paw seems to have come over our happiness’. As the characters try to make sense of things that science can’t explain, supernatural forces slowly creep into their reality. Humans become overcome with animal qualities as Dracula’s blood enters theirs and the reserved Victorian sensibility of all those ‘possessed’ is thrown to the winds. Their bodies take on a raw ‘animal’ sensuality, which of course must be stopped by all means available, including garlic, rosaries and the cross.
David Ballantyne’s direction makes full use of Chris Benham’s stark and edgy set, staging multiple scenes in juxtaposition with each other, supported by the strong soundscape designed by Alex Irwin and wonderful lighting by Tony Zandol. An inventive use of video imagery and ethereal sounds lifts this production into a great sensory experience. The cast works well together with stand out performances from Jay Howe as Renfield, Cliff Boyer as Van Helsing and Emily Abbey as Mina.
A great choice for a scary Halloween night out!
Sept. 28 – Oct. 20.
Pentacle Theatre, 324 52nd Ave. NW,
off Highway 22, about 6 miles west of
downtown Salem, Oregon.
Tickets range in price from $24-29.
Advance tickets are available at Pentacle’s downtown Salem ticket office at 145 Liberty St. NE or by calling 503-400-6582 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, or online anytime at pentacletheatre.org.
Tickets are also available at the theater box office 45 minutes before each performance.
Photo above: Jay Howe as the tortured Renfield, watched by Dracula,
Anthony Redelsperger and the ‘Vixens, Elizabeth Ming, Jewelia Owens,
and Kristine Rosentrater. Photo by Lonnie Thurston.