Dracula whets the appetite for Halloween
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 19, 2013 06:00 am
Running until Oct. 26
10322 – 83 Ave.
Tickets: $13.75 to $19.75. Call 780-420-1757 or purchase online at www.tixonthesquare.ca
Wolves howl in the distance, fog swirls inland and a Gregorian chant reverberates throughout the darkness. In other corners, the piercing shrieks of madmen resonate throughout an insane asylum and starved vixens tear the bloodied flesh of a baby.
Gothic windows, the stone turrets of a castle, a large bed next to a bookcase and an infested jail cell are an indication of the silently approaching scourge.
The set of Walterdale Theatre’s season opener, Dracula, is a world of lunacy where once-reasonable men and woman are now evil mutants with a never-ending bloodlust for the living.
This is a deliciously creepy production of Steven Dietz’s relatively faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece Victorian horror Dracula, a tale of good versus evil that resurrects the undead Carpathian count.
Stoker wrote his novel in 1897, and subsequent playwrights have penned numerous adaptations, some quite cheesy. Dietz stays true to the English neo-Gothic thriller but has structured the two-act play with flashbacks and detours that are at times confusing.
Director Darrell Portz has tackled this version with theatrical gusto, maintaining a sense of mystery, sexuality and terror. Rather than a strictly bad-guy-versus-good-guy theme, Portz expands the script’s layers reminding us that our fear of the unknown is our greatest predator and nemesis.
The scenes take place in various locales: an English estate, a mouldy Transylvanian castle, dockyards, an asylum, a jail cell and tombs. Tying all these scenes together is Andrew Mecready’s Renfield, a madman who claims the first and last lines of the play.
Renfield delightfully snacks on insects and rats and waits for his “master” to confer immortality upon him. Bound to Dracula, his maniacal outbursts reveal a psychotic conduit to the count. And every line is delivered with the ferocious glee of gallows humour.
Steve Dhillon also plays the role of Dracula with demonic triumph. As both the old and young Dracula, Dhillon first appears as a wizened old count. Stooped with age, the old ghoul shuffles into the light revealing a Yoda-like face with bat ears and thin wisps of hair. His gnarled hands end with fingernails the size of cashews and his too-large robe makes the gaunt figure look like he’s gone to seed.
But after the cape-swirling vampire seduces Lucy for a blood-sucking meal, he morphs into a virile stud who is equally charming and deadly. However, in the fragmented dialogue, Dracula reminds us of a dichotomy – to survive he too must eat.
And former Paul Kane graduate Louise Large as Mina displays a powerful stage presence and nails her character dead on. Mina is the smart, modern woman seduced by Dracula and in danger of morphing into the undead. Even though she’s wasting away, Mina uses her inborn intelligence and strength to rally the team of men to action.
There are some brilliant special effects and the blood is kept to a minimum. But use caution in taking young children to this show.