Friday, November 7, 2014
Dracula at MPC
First, a word of caution: I have a warped sense of humor. Am I clear on that? Good? Let me continue-
The Holiday Ham was served a little bit early this year- MPC's production of Dracula ramps up the camp with snarling vampires wearing teased hair, modern "Goth" sensibilities, and plenty of stage make-up for the Halloween season. Necks aren't the only things to get chewed up in this melodrama as the cast revels in performances that are mostly way over the top- but in a good way. It's obvious most of the actors are having fun with their performances and it keeps the energy going through most of the show when the exposition threatens to drag the pace down at points-
James Brady totally nails the role of Professor Van Helsing, a man of medicine and the occult who arrives at Dr. Seward's (Dale Thompson) sanitarium to answer a call for aid. The good doctor's intended has recently passed away and her friend is now suffering the same symptoms. It doesn't take long to track down that the problem is a significant loss of blood and that Van Helsing may know more than he initially reveals. Complicating issues are the insane ramblings of a resident lunatic with the name of "Renfield", whose dialogue is magnificently chewed up by Matt Pardue in another highlight performance. The most effective scenes of the show are when Van Helsing is forced to match wits with the lunatic, and I had a blast watching those two characters play off one another.
The titular character- that's what you all really want to know about, right? Well, Matthew Pavelis tackles the role with incredible enthusiasm and great energy. He snarls, he growls, and he chews up the dialogue with an Eastern European accent while strutting around the stage on huge platform boots and swishing his cape. There are huge moments of exaggerated menace that plays straight to the audience and it never lets up. He successfully channels Bela Legosi and Gary Oldman (The set design and general look of the show seems to show a strong affinity for the Coppola film), so it works on those levels.
This isn't the Dracula I know and I love, though. Names are changed, characters shifted, and events transpire out the usual sequence. I'm not a stickler for a faithful rendering of the classic novel, however. My favorite Dracula film remains the Hammer production (which is not at all faithful, but if you're expecting something closer to the novel then at least be forewarned. Lucy (Westfall, here, rather than Westenra) switches places with Mina in the order of victimization- and the suitors are reduced to only Dr. Seward and Jonathan Harker, respectively. We have Abram Van Helsing father than Abraham, and so on so forth. All the changes don't need to be mentioned, sufficed to say that they're present and so you should be prepared.
4 out of 5.