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TODAY IS Monday, November 17 , 2003
Deft 'Dracula' conjures fresh fascination, menace

By BILL HAYDEN
Staff reporter
10/28/2003

Steven Dietz's stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic 1897 novel "Dracula" is a riveting blend of Victorian melodrama and contemporary stagecraft.

As directed for the Delaware Theatre Company by John Grassilli, the play's tension and terror build gradually, and effectively, until the audience has as much at stake in thwarting the plans of the undead title character as do the desperate vampire hunters of the story.

Just as Stoker's novel used the characters' letters and journals, Dietz's script uses vignettes to move the story quickly along to the appearance of the most famous of vampires near the end of the opening act. Dracula's shadow, however, darkens the proceedings from the play's start.

The playwright does wisely use humor to break the tension, most noticeably in the initial meeting over dinner between Dracula (played by Paul Morella) and solicitor Jonathan Harker (Peter Bisgaier). The conversation is filled with double-entendre about appetites and death.

Morella plays Dracula with biting menace and self-assurance as the vampire turns to 1902 England as a fertile hunting ground for new victims.

Prime among his targets are Lucy Westenra (Krista Hoeppner), a headstrong young woman, and Mina Murray (Gina Daniels), Harker's financée. Hoeppner expertly plays a woman whose desires are shackled by society's conventions and who ultimately falls victim to Dracula. Daniels presents a no-nonsense, determined Mina.

Equally as practical as Mina is Dr. John Seward, who is in love with Lucy. As Lucy falls ever deeper under Dracula's spell, he turns to his old professor, Van Helsing (Nora Chester), for help. Van Helsing has as much faith in science as he does, but unlike him, is willing to look to the unexplained and supernatural for explanations.

After Lucy's death, the remaining four set out to destroy Dracula - if they can.

The catalyst for much of the tale's action is Renfield, an inmate in Seward's insane asylum who has an unquenchable appetite for insects and small animals. Buzz Roddy portrays him with a fine madness that mixes a desire to be given immortality by Dracula and a conscience that forces him to warn the principal characters of their danger and likely doom.

The result is a familiar tale made fresh again.

Reach Bill Hayden at 324-2887 or mailto:bhayden@delawareonline.com

STAGE REVIEW
Dracula

WHAT: Drama by Steven Dietz. Professional regional theater.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 2 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. Through Nov. 16

WHERE: Delaware Theatre Company, 200 Water St., Wilmington

INFORMATION: 594-1100

TICKETS: $23-$43

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