Theater review Nona Nelson says Showtimers’ “Dracula” rises from its crypt in excellent shape. Have you seen the play? What did you think?
Nona’s review follows below.
When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; 8 p.m. Sept. 26-29; 2 p.m. Sept. 30
Where: Showtimers, 2067 McVitty Road, Roanoke
Cost: $12 for adults; $5 for age 18 and under
Info: www.showtimers.org; 774-2660
Showtimers scares up a ghoulishly good tale with its latest production, “Dracula.”
Forget about the twinkling, daylight-walking vampires of the “Twilight” books and films. This classic version of vampire lore revolves around the infamous, shape-shifting, transient Transylvanian — a creature of the night that preys on the bodies and souls of his neighbors outside of London in the 1920s.
Solid performances from the cast and a deft interpretation of the material by director Kris Laguzza deliver a spooky play with just the right balance of suspense and dry humor. Wednesday night’s nearly sold-out opening performance kept the audience thoroughly entertained.
The scenes primarily play out in the Gothic-style study of Dr. Seward (Michael Ridenhour), director of a sanitorium in Purley, England.
The doctor is worried about his daughter Lucy (Caitlin Coleman), who is suffering from an odd case of anemia accompanied by disturbing dreams. A similar affliction claimed the life of her friend, Mina. He has summoned Lucy’s fiance, Jonathan Harker (Stephen Baltz), and a Dutch doctor, Van Helsing (Tim Kennard), to help find a cure for his daughter’s illness before it’s too late.
In playwrights Hamilton Deane’s and John L. Balderston’s retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic tale of good versus evil, Van Helsing is a 20th-century version of television’s Dr. House, a solver of medical mysteries. He deduces from the bite marks on Lucy’s neck that she is the victim of a vampire, then he has to convince her father that being drained of life by the undead is a valid diagnosis.
Soon suspicion of who the bloodsucker might be turns from R.M. Renfield (Kevin McAlexander), an insect-eating, wall-scaling inmate of the sanitorium, to Dracula (Chris Reidy), the creepy count who has recently purchased a nearby estate.
Reidy does a splendid job in the title role, and McAlexander turns in a brilliant performance as the maniacal Renfield. The actors, particularly McAlexander and supporting cast members Heather Simpson and Spencer Meredith, maintained authentic English accents throughout the performance.
The story of Dracula is so familiar that the element of surprise — key to a good horror story — is mostly lost. But Laguzza’s staging and lighting adds thrills to the well-known tale and there is at least one adrenaline-raising scream to keep the play exciting. The musical accompaniment from Matt Marshall sets a properly chilling mood.
The show is family-friendly and should not be nightmare-inducing — despite all the talk of stakes through the heart — even for young theatergoers.