Originally dramatized by John L Balderston and Hamilton Dean
Based on the novel by Bram Stoker
Adapted and directed by William McNulty

Well, today is the first day of autumn, which can only mean one thing:  my favorite holiday – Halloween – is right around the corner. The holiday that celebrates things that go bump in the night. And it’s only fitting that I watched Actors Theatre of Louisville’s theatrical adaptation of Dracula to get into the holiday spirit. Although the plot might be the same every year, diehard fans and newcomers alike won’t be disappointed by the scary adventure in the Bingham Theatre.

Having seen previous productions, I was excited to travel to Dr. Seward’s sanatorium and visit these characters plagued by terror. I entered the theatre with certain queries. What will this year’s vampires look like? To what depths will Renfield’s insanity delve? Will Van Helsing and Dr. Seward be able to save Lucy? And how about that Count Dracula fellow; what will he be like? Most importantly, how scared am I going to be during this show? The vampires or Undead Ensemble are both creepy and beautiful as they leap, hiss and scream at all four corners of the stage. Calvin Smith plays Count Dracula in demon form. He was an acrobatic beast, leaping and tumbling around the stage in the prologue as he corners Mina, the play’s first victim.

In past years, Actors Theatre has produced variations of Dracula from Renfield’s point of view. This year, Alex Morf plays Renfield as a rambling, scurrying rat who looks as though he has escaped from the sewer. I was most impressed not only with how willing he was to throw his body around the stage in almost every one of his scenes, but also with how quickly he transitioned from laugh-out-loud funny to a tragically haunted prisoner of Count Dracula.

Director William McNulty plays Abraham Van Helsing, the skeptical Dutch doctor who has come to rid the world of Dracula’s wide-spread panic. The choice to cast the director is a daring move. I have seen Actors Theatre do this before in The Tempest when Mark Masterson filled in as Prospero. Serving as director, actor as well as script adapter, McNulty had his hands full. McNulty’s adaptation places Van Helsing in an ensemble of people who are mutually inflicted by Count Dracula, making him not the most prominent character but rather an equal to other victims. The voice of reason, McNulty was wise and mature as he tries to solve matters that are “beyond the realm of conventional science.”

And then there’s Dracula, played by Rufio Lerma. Men want to kill him and women are defenseless against him. Lermas’s Count is hypnotic and charming, but he never lets his audience forget that he is the villain. Whether he is cheekily making fun of himself with such lines as “I never drink…wine,” or “Humans? I thrive on them,” or seducing his victims in the middle of the night, Lerma’s Dracula is a powerful, blood-thirsty presence.

I think it goes without saying that this is not a show for the weak at heart. There is a lot of (fake) blood spilled on stage as well as screaming, creepy laughter, eerie music and a pulsating chorus of the phrase “He’s going to get me” at the top of the show. This is a show that is meant to frighten as well as entertain, just in time for Halloween. So if screaming blood-thirsty vampires sound like a real treat this October, head on down to Actors Theatre to grab a seat for Dracula.

Fifth Third Bank’s Dracula
Actors Theatre of Louisville
Bingham Theater
September 16-October 30th
Third & Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Entire contents are copyright © 2011 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.