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DRACULA

Based on the novel by Bram Stoker
Adapted by Hamilton Deane & John L. Balderston

Directed by Gregg W. Brevoort

Nancy T. Hansen Theatre PURDUE UNIVERSITY
West Lafayette, IN

 

The Journal & Courier
Don’
t Miss Purdue Theatre’s Dracula!
By Kathy Matter

– “This Gregg Brevoort-directed production is utterly captivating”

Bring your crosses and wolfbane to Purdue Theatre's production of Bram Stoker's "Dracula," but be prepared -- it might not be enough to resist its spell. This Gregg Brevoort-directed production, continuing through Sunday at the Nancy Hansen Theatre, is utterly captivating. Although everyone knows Dracula as one of the world's most famous vampires, not everyone has actually seen the movies, and there's even less chance that they've seen the stage play. If that describes you, or if you just like rich retellings of classic stories, then this production is for you.

Brevoort, his actors and his technical team have crafted a wonderfully entertaining production. Each performance and each special effect -- and there are a lot of them -- is superbly executed. There are all the chills and thrills and trappings of the horror film tradition that you'd expect -- rolling mists of fog, gusts of wind that make the set's huge windows flap, furniture that moves on its own, suspense-building music, eerie lighting and sequential sound tracks that make it sound like the vampire/bat is whooshing over your head. Each and every character, from Patrick Midgley's hypnotic Dracula to the smallest roles, like the maid (Louise Cracknell) and the Sanatorium attendant (Sebastian Smith) is meticulously and delightfully nuanced. Individually, and as ensemble, they draw you into the play until you almost feel like you're on the stage with them.

Re-creating an iconic character like Dracula can't be easy, but Midgley makes it look that way. Instead of going for the slicked-back hair of Bela Lugosi (the original Dracula), makeup artists opted for giving him long silky hair that gives him a slightly Fabio look but effectively gives him modern day sex appeal. Utterly focused, Midgley is in command whenever he's on stage.

"Dracula's" Act 2 standoff with his nemesis, Van Helsing (Rob Hinds), is a standoff between two actors playing at the top of their games and it generates electricity. But the most riveting moment is yet to come, an erotic blood lust scene when Dracula makes Lucy (Greta Wohlrabe) his bride. In that scene, everyone (actors as well as tech crews) delivers to create a WOW moment on stage.

And, if that's not enough, Act 3 boasts a disappearing act you have to see to believe.

Wohlrabe deserves special mention for presenting a winsome Lucy who can make the scary flip to would-be vampire in the bat of a beguiling eyelash. Cullen Deady imbues Renfield, Dracula's fly-eating minion, with a scary intensity reminiscent of another lunatic, Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs."

Kudos all around to the tech staff and to the crew, who deservedly took an onstage bow at the end of the show. This production takes anything you've seen before on the Hansen stage up one level, maybe more, with credit to Katrina Miller, scenic design; Joel Ebarb, costume design; R. Lee Kennedy, lighting design; and Phil Ingle, sound design.

All in all, "Dracula" is one howling good night of entertainment. Catch it before it flies by and the moment is gone.

Matter is a former arts and entertainment writer for the Journal & Courier.