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Transcript: Connie Meng Review aired Monday, August 13, 2001

Dracula

at 1000 Islands Playhouse, Gananoque, ON, Thu., August 2 through Sun., September 2, 2001

Who would have thought that another version of DRACULA would be so entertaining? Certainly not me, and yet I found myself enjoying the new version at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. The story has been told so many different times in so many different ways it's difficult to look at it with fresh eyes. However the script, adapted by Kathryn MacKay, attempts to examine the women in the story and (I quote) "… their growing realization that, contrary to Victorian beliefs, their desires are natural and essential parts of life." Ms. MacKay sets up an interesting conflict between passion and reason.

Kairiin Bright's set is very inventive, looks good, and works amazingly well for all the changes of location. It's effectively lit by Adair Redish. Dennis Horn has done his usual good job on the costumes with the exception of Mina's opening outfit. It looks like the top half of one dress worn with the skirt of another. He also needs to re-dress the blond wigs on the two vampire ladies. The backlighting shows up every separation.

Sandy Thorburn has written some really nice original music to underscore the production. He utilizes a small combination of instruments and voice to good effect. His music fits the period, is never distracting, and heightens the emotion and tension.

Director Greg Wanless has assembled a talented cast with a couple of standouts and a couple of exceptions. Timm Hughes has great fun chewing the scenery as the bug-eating Renfield. He's also great fun to watch, and is quite touching when telling his story to Mina. He'd make an interesting Puck. Mirelle Lebel as Lucy is very believable in a role that could easily become campy. Miss Lebel also supplies the lovely soprano voice heard in the underscoring.

Matthew Gibson, who did such a nice job in HAY FEVER and Rob Torr, who was an excellent Motel in FIDDLER, both do good jobs in the rather thankless straight-man roles of Dr. Seward and Jonathan Harker. Dr. Seward's scene with Mina in Act II is especially good.

Mo Bock would be a stronger VanHelsing without the odd accent. He's difficult to understand, as he also tends to drop the ends of his sentences. Unfortunately Anne Hardcastle plays Lucy's mother all on one level - as a rather stupid woman who is truly irritating. As a result, the character is totally unsympathetic, which I don't believe is the author's intention.

Michelle Mallen makes a very good Mina and manages the journey of self-discovery fairly well. The decision to escape Dracula's thrall comes a bit too easily, but that's a problem with the script. Robert Dodds is a terrific Count Dracula and even manages to get away with a Bela Lugosi-style accent. He has the stature and bearing to carry it off, even a line like, "Welcome to Transylvania."

If you giggled at that, you've hit on the problem with the play. It's meant to be taken seriously, but so much baggage comes with this story that some audience members are bound to giggle.

Speaking of the audience, it's one thing to giggle, but it's really rude to comment out loud to your neighbor. It stems from the common but irritating habit of talking back to the TV set, but audience members need to brush up their theatre manners. That kind of commenting disturbs the rest of the audience, not to mention the actors.

Artistic Director Greg Wanless has put together a production where all the elements come together into an entertaining evening. On a scale of one to five, the 1000 Islands Playhouse gets four fish. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.