Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Real Transylvania Mania

Posted by Bruce Miller

Very quickly (it's past my bedtime), I attended TheatreVCU's production of Dracula this evening, written by Steven Dietz, directed by Barry Bell, and produced by David Leong. It was an exciting, impressive and creepy ride.

I especially appreciated the five leading men: Brandon Crowder as Dracula, Joe Carlson as Renfield, Joseph Sultani as Seward, Landon Nagel as Van Helsing, and Andrew Donnelly as Harker. All five inhabited their characters with distinct personalities and histrionic expertise, creating some heart-pounding suspense.
Of the five, Landon Nagel is the Barksdale vet, having played the minister and other roles in The Full Monty a couple summers ago.

Ron Keller's set, Toni-Leslie James's costumes, Mike Mauren's lights, and especially Thomas Vecchione's sound were all chill inducing. Ron Keller is another Barksdale and Theatre IV vet, having designed The Laramie Project and supervised the designs of countless other shows at Willow Lawn, including our upcoming productions of Doubt and The Little Dog Laughed.
The two leading ladies, Jaci Camden and Marie Weigle, spent most of the show as young lovelies, but became more interesting after becoming "unclean." Barry Bell staged it all with style, classical titillation, and a fun sense of the unexpected.

More than half the seats were empty this evening, which is a terrible shame. Students can attend for only $7 (adults are something like $18). This evening was further proof that even when exciting theatre is presented super-cheap in their own backyard, it's really difficult to convince the majority of university students to come to the theatre.

The last two performances will be tomorrow evening (Friday) at 7:30, and, if you want to be really creepy, Saturday evening at MMIIDDNNIIGGHHTT - AHH HHAA HHAA!! (That's me using my deep Transylvania voice with lots of reverb.)

Anyway, for an eerie good time, you won't go wrong with this new edition of Dracula. The VCU theatre department is full of talent. And you can't beat the price.

--Bruce Miller


Thespis' Little Helper said...

Steven Dietz' adaptation is fantastic. He also is a pretty incredible playwright even without source material. He's published a very impressive amount of work, including Lonely Planet, one of the earliest plays to deal with the subject of AIDS, and also an absolutley hysterical spoof (of sorts) of Chekhov's The Seagull called Nina Variations.

Fun story:
Steven Dietz' Dracula was the first "professional" production I ever did as an actor. It was at a small semiprofessional theatre in Bowling Green, Kentucky, called the Public Theatre of Kentucky. Fantastic small theatre. I was in college at the time at Western Kentucky University. It was so thrilling. I was getting paid! To act! I was a waiter, an attendant (who died), another attendant, a vixen (hahaha), and an another attendant (who died). Four lines! Wow!

Being in college, in a fantastic theatre department, I was also working on four other productions at the same time, two of which as an actor and two in some technical or design aspect, which I forget now, and going to school fulltime. I fell asleep during notes after rehearsal more than once. They were very sweet. And I would hear from the director "Billy Kat" "Billy Kat" because under my special skills on my resume I had listed "a bad Katherine Hepburn imitation" and it was one of two auditions to date where I was actually asked to do it.

So, one night...I'm in the dressing room during the show, and I apparently have fallen asleep with my head on the dressing room table. I hear my cue line for when I am generally waiting in the lobby for my entrance from house left as an attendant. (The dressing room is off stage left(the opposite side of the theatre). To enter from house left, one must exit the dressing room to outside, go around the building, enter through the front door and go through the lobby). I woke up at the recognition of the line (amazingly), grabbed my lab coat, flung open the door, ran around the building, through the front door, through the lobby, and in from house left, yelling my line in a desperate frenzy "Renfield has escaped from the asylum" or something... PERFECTLY ON CUE!

The gods of the theatre were smiling on me that night.

I have never fallen asleep during a show since.

Robyn said...

Bruce - I almost called you the night I saw this. I thought the production values were terrific, and Joe Carlson was particularly impressive! Did he audition for LDL?