Raving Renfield pumps up North Coast Rep's "˜Dracula'
by Charlene Baldridge
Nov 15, 2007 | 541 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Through Nov. 18, Steven Dietz's adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" may be seen at North Coast Repertory. The playwright does not shy away from the elements of faith employed by Dr. van Helsing (Robert Grossman) to destroy the forces of evil unwittingly unleashed upon the world by real estate agent Jonathan Harker (earnestly played by Jason Heil). On opening night, Grossman stumbled around in the second act text, drawing what was, apparently, complete blanks. Other than that, the show went fairly smoothly.

Dietz begins his narrative with the institutionalizing of Dracula's London acolyte, the fly- and rodent-eating Renfield, done to a T by veteran stage, television and film actor Sean Sullivan, who manages to capture the man's depravity and while doing to give audiences a creepy, humorous thrill.

The Master himself is portrayed by Matt Thompson, physically imposing, bloodthirsty and sexually alluring. The earnest young Dr. Seward, in charge of the asylum and engaged to Lucy, is portrayed by Christopher M. Williams. Seward's good intentions match those of Harker, and the implicit message seems to be that thoroughly good men are terribly boring. Seward and Harker's set-upon ladies are Lucy (Christy Yael) and Mina (Brenda Dodge), whose friendship "” in Dietz's opening scene and Christopher Vened's staging "” has a definite sexual frisson.

But these are two young Victorian women curious about sex, and Lucy, who has two additional suitors, is exceptionally vulnerable.  

Polish-born director Christopher Vened paces Act I like a madman. Act II lags a bit as we wonder if our heroes will ever get to Transylvania to dispatch the escaped Count Dracula.

From Mozart to bats at midnight, Chris Luessman's sound design illuminates the proceedings, staged on Marty Burnett's three-ring circus of a set, Renfield's cell on the left, Dracula's Transylvanian digs center stage, and Lucy's bedchamber on the right. Cumbersome, and on opening night catastrophic, scene changes abound center stage; otherwise the set works brilliantly.

Playing through Nov. 18 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. For tickets and information, visit www.northcoastrep.org or call (858) 481-1055. 
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