Theater Review – Dramatic ‘Dracula’ targets wider audience

Misha Kuznetsov and Kim Stauffer: in “Dracula” at Actors Theater.  photo by Harlan Taylor

Misha Kuznetsov and Kim Stauffer: in “Dracula” at Actors Theater. photo by Harlan Taylor

For those who would twitch or snore through “Waiting for Godot” or any other subtle theatrical work, “Dracula,” the play, is sure to keep your attention. Actors Theatre of Louisville’s staging of “Dracula” is full of first-rate action sequences, both visual and sonic special effects, and more feverish screaming than the Miss America Pageant. These jarring scenes are expertly enhanced with periods of silence or slow-paced subtlety, making the inevitable frightening interruptions all the more thrilling.

The story of the ancient, torturous terror of Dracula is a familiar one that treads fairly close to the original Bram Stoker construct. The production will appeal to all ages, but is perhaps a little too frightening for children under 10 years old. But the universality and palatability are the play’s strength, and undeniably entertaining and exhilarating.

Count Dracula (Misha Kuznetsov) is by turns charming and confidently evil, and favors a more muscular, looming vampire that contrasts to the one made famous by Bela Lugosi. His presence on stage is always disarming, and the pain that he has inflicted and received over the centuries is palpable in his performance. (A note about Dracula’s cape: Even though it couldn’t have been easy to choreograph, his tossing and swirling of it becomes little excessive by the end of the play.)

Though Dracula effectively commands the audience’s attention, the maniacally tragic asylum inmate, Renfield (Oliver Wadsworth), effectively steals the show, providing much of the comic relief as the burly orderly Butterworth (Jake Millgard) chases him about the set. The other male actors play solid, reserved, stuffy roles as concerned doctors and scientists working to protect the delicate Lucy (Kim Stauffer) as she is hungrily pursued by the Count. The production runs right until Halloween, and will certainly set the mood for the macabre.