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Posted by: Kim_Hamilton on 04/10/2009 05:21 PM Updated by: thepinetree on 04/11/2009 01:32 AM
Expires: 01/01/2014 12:00 AM
:

This Week on the 'Standing O'....."Dracula" is a Must See~by Noella Eastlake


Dracula.....That one name has struck fear into countless heart for over 100 years. The countless numbers who have been haunted under a similarly frightening name, Nosferatu, have suffered for even longer. The opening scene to SRT’s production of ‘Dracula’ was equally as entrancing, as well as a bit alarming. .....

Courtesy Photo


Haunting music greets the weary traveler, or in our case audience member, as they enter into the auditorium of the old Fallon House Theater. The stage, beautifully decorated with lush furniture of the time, is complete with overhanging beams, gargoyles and even a brilliant red-eyed dragon peers down from center stage to set the audience in their place. The lights dim, the music lingers heavily as an echoing moan cries out “Lucy” over and over again. A wail follows, and we begin.

As they are often known to do, SRT easily captivates the audience into their world of make believe, by pulling at the puppet strings of the heart and cutting them loose when one is least expecting it. Throughout the play, the audience is kept on the edge of their seats, through the anguished cries of the victims, to the angry cries of the ‘mob’ and the bitter howls of the deranged. Of course, no vision of Dracula is complete without a hint of mystery and disbelief, and there is also a shock or to cause they needed gasp from the lips of fellow theater patrons. What one may not expect is the humor this play also provides, all within good boundaries and enough to relax some rattled nerves.

This particular play follows the tale of young Lucy, still in mourning over the sudden tragic death of her best friend Mina, she has suffered from countless nightmares and frights to the point of illness. What causes this illness, it is unknown, that is until Pr. Van Helsing arrives and makes the extraordinary and perhaps unbelievable announcement that Lucy is a victim of a vampire. A creature of make belief, few are willing to believe what they hear, but to save Lucy’s life, they will try at anything.

Helping to create our opening into the hellish world of Lucy’s nightmares are Haley Rade and Brooke Lawrence. Both creep onto the stage, their movements haunting and full of discord. Lawrence draws the fear from Lucy’s lips speaking to her in a voice that commands listening. Though only briefly seen, she is a memorable face, as well as Ms. Rade.

Rushing to the cries of anguish from Ms. Lucy, is a smart-and-quick hand maid known to those within as Miss Wells, played by Corban Shepherd. From the very first moment she stepped on stage, Shepherd was delightful. Her accent is spot on (certainly a fine model for any up-and-coming young actress!). But it is really her mannerisms and body language that speak volumes beyond the words of a mere script.

Also coming to the side of his beloved daughter is Dr. Seward, played by Daraj Maxfield. As the fearful father, Maxfield manages to dominate the stage with his presence, while not overdoing it. His facial expressions convey a full range of emotion, drawing the audience in while conveying his words without merely spitting them out.

Alas, our young Lucy, played by Allison M. Evans is sent up to bed for a rest and reassured her dreams are nothing more than that. Ms. Evans has a commanding presence and a supreme ability not only to reflect a full range of emotions, as well as a smooth slide from one to the other. She is sweet, sincere and frightened and the next she is wild and raving.

Sent off to bed, enter her beloved the young Jonathon Harker, played by Corey Ciccci. As always the one of disbelief, he provides a sort of anchor for the insanity that rushes about them and he handles it extraordinarily well.

It is not long before Seward explains his fears to the young bow and informs him that they will soon be expecting what could possibly be Lucy’s last hope, a friend and her Godfather Pr. Van Helsing. At the announcement of Butterworth a butler of sorts around the sanitarium (who it must be said is constantly running about chasing after a certain ‘patient’) Van Helsing arrives. Ted Barton is an excellent choice as the role. His accent is often so hard to understand that you can see audience members leaning forward in the hopes to grasp his full meaning. He too, is a master of mere gesture, which adds to the power of his character as he sets off in hopes to find the cause of our Lucy’s ailments. Throughout the process we see a man grow into his role and cannot help but hope that his assumptions are correct and will be enough to save the young girl from a fate worse than death.

Periodically though, the scene is broken by the cat and mouse chase of Butterworth, played by Jason Ryan Lovett, and Renfield, played by John C. Brown. Lovett is perhaps a hint of comical relief. But don’t let his charm fool you. His part is clearly a bridge between the sanity and the madness. Enter Brown (who has masterfully transformed himself into a crazed lunatic who appears nothing like his headshot). It amazes me the clear change that takes place between the clarity and the madness within this mans head. You can see the desperation as he clings to both the demands of the human soul and the insanity of becoming a nosferatu… perhaps his cure.

This leads us to the arrival of evil himself, or in this case, Dracula played by Tom Mesmer. With the demanding role of Dracula, Mesmer is a clear standout in his performance. In something akin to the original player of the original nosferatu, he draws the eerie and insane. Yet adding a touch of comedic value and humanity, he manages to leave you laughing in a hope to erase the chills running down your spine. For any other actor, his over-the-top performance might not have worked, but in this case it did and made the play so much MORE than it could have been!

Dracula plays Thursday and Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm at the Fallon House Theater in Columbia. I urge you to go, because this is one play you will regret missing for the rest of your life!


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