By Noah Tebben
Walking into the RPI playhouse earlier this week, without a clue of what exactly to expect of Bram Stoker’s gothic work of genius, I instantly got a dark, bloody, and friendly taste of what would be a delightful evening. Frantic tech crew members were sprawled on the floor, trying to bring a makeshift blood transfusion machine to life like the most dedicated EMTs. Actors bustled about in costume, their eyes dark and moody but their smiles warm and eager. I bumped into Dracula himself, who gave me a friendly bow, and even better, resisted his urge to drink the life out of me. I knew this would be a gory, haunting treat, and the show exceeded expectations.
*Photos by Mason Cooper
Adapted from Steven Dietz’ script of Stoker’s Dracula, this show cuts any semblance of the campy off-humor treatment that the Nosferatu usually find themselves burdened with. The humor is dark, the blood flows with an air of thick sexual tension, and the dialogue is consistently on-point. Dietz’ adaptation, as Eric Shovah, the director, points out, partitions each character’s dialogue into multiple scenes, using a multitude of flashbacks to keep viewers’ eyes moving with intrigue and never bogged down by any gratuitous diatribes. Moreover, as all of the exhausted tech crew and set builders proudly reminded me, Dracula is a tech-heavy experience and was chosen as a challenge for (and definitely a testament to) the Players’ technical aptitude. The lighting precisely focuses the viewer’s attention and contributes immensely to the brief joys, lingering dread, and shock factor present in the play. The sound, while infrequently used to let the actors and actresses demonstrate their strength, is sharp, and meticulously played to capture some pivotal moments in their adaptation.
Finally, we have the cast, from the playful Lucy, played by Jocelyn Griser to the shady, looming Count Dracula, played by Garrison Johnston, that execute their varied roles with convincing duress and conviction. I spoke at length with Mr. Dracula himself, to better understand how he modeled the character so well. He told me,
“I wanted Dracula to be a cobra, in that he slithers and strikes with creeping movements.”
Johnston’s deep voice booms and intimidates throughout his performance, as definitive proof that he was an excellent choice for the role. His secret?
“I’m a freshman, this is my first performance, and I actually auditioned on a complete whim. I love acting and just happened on an audition poster when walking with my friends. So I went, and read for most of the characters, but went all or nothing on Dracula’s role. I then got the call a week later, and here I am.”
His portrayal makes the show a must-see for any gothic horror fans, Stoker followers, and play purveyors of all kinds. That said, all of the characters deserve your adoration. They love their work, they love the screaming cries and the garlic-hurling fury and the seductive bloodlust and every ounce of their passion bleeds into the play. As your squeamish writer, I can say that while the gore is far from excessive, I did my fair share of cringing and squirming at the grittier scenes. The faint of heart may want to avert their eyes, but should in no way avoid the play entirely. So get to it! Make your weekend a little more cultured and a lot more fun with showings this Friday and Saturday (Nov. 14th and 15th) at 8:00pm, or for those with early bedtimes, this Sunday at 2:00pm.
(Look for extended interviews with the cast, as well as all of the fun secrets involved with the play and the playhouse in our upcoming issue! Who lost their nose? What song did the sound booth remix in Dracula’s voice? Was the blood delicious? Find out soon!)