Bram Stoker’s dark and sinister vision of the undead master vampire Dracula returns to its classical Gothic roots in Opening Nite Theatre’s presentation of The Death of Dracula.
This is a much different production than the “prepubescent, glittery, pretty boy nonsense” of the Twilight books and other movies depicting Count Dracula as something other than the “sophisticated seducer of mortals,” says director Tony Loyer.
Indeed, the relatively minimalist set and modest attire leaves the actors the arduous task of raising audience neck hairs with exacting delivery of Stoker’s wordy horror story.
Producer Camille Knight, doubling as set designer, cleverly utilizes the stage’s centrepiece prop, a chaise lounge, which becomes the vampire’s coffin in the second act.
The play begins with a disconcerting performance by disheveled Gary Atha, portraying the insane Renfield, whose rhetorical manner of speech and wild furtive eyes make one immediately uncomfortable.
He is interviewed by the story’s hero, determined vampire slayer Abraham Van Helsing, depicted by British-trained actor Gerwyn Mills. His frantic pace in the second act, as his booming voice commands his colleagues, quickly transforms him from the initially frail character into the vampire’s formidable foe.
The verbose dialogue of the opening scene between Dr. John Seward, played by Jim Anderson, and Van Helsing makes for a slow start. But the appearance of Lucy Murray, played by the talented Susan Dearing, marks a dramatic change in pace.
Dearing’s white skin and pale eyes make for a chilling portrayal of Dracula’s bride before she succumbs to the vampiric kiss.
The most compelling scene in the play occurs when Lucy returns from the crypt to seduce her fiancé Arthur, played by Brad McDonald. Appearing at the window, the undead ghoul asks Arthur to invite her inside with an eerily calm voice.
When Lucy is allowed inside, her appearance has changed from the sickly pale victim to the colourful, curvy and confidently bewitching vampiress.
The first appearance of Count Dracula is startling, his dark and powerful figure striding from the shadows to greet Lucy and Mina Seward, ably played by Cara Thomson, whose anxious face reflects the growing unease of the ensemble.
Brent Boutilier is, as far as looks are concerned, a superbly cast Dracula. Unfortunately, his presence is less dramatic than his imposing figure.
A notable mention goes to neophyte actor Tim Hawryluk, who plays Seward’s fiancé Jonathan Harker, giving a delightful performance with unhesitating delivery and charismatic smiles.
The Death of Dracula is certainly a faithful restoration of the Gothic classic, and this community theatre group performs it admirably. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. until Oct. 30.
Tickets are $12 at Murdoch’s BookShoppe or at the door, 33227 North Railway Ave. in Mission.