Ghost Of Dracula
nytheatre.com review by J Jordan
August 14, 2010
Ghost of Dracula, which, by the way, is a comedy, is one of the more enjoyable bloodsucking fiend genre pieces we've seen over the years, and we've seen a lot of theatre inspired by the figure of Dracula. Most of it has been bad, or at the very least predictable, which is, sad to say, boring. This show, thankfully, is anything but boring.
No, from the first time we meet the young Van Helsing (Eric J. Krueger)—descendent of the man famous for staking at least one incarnation of Dracula, who is a teen facing detention along with his ex-girlfriend Mina Lucy (Keilly McQuail) and her new boyfriend, Jonathan Harker (Eric Williams), descendent of the Harker in Stoker's famous novel—to the last moment of Mina's crazy discovery, which hopefully ensures a sequel at next year's Fringe Festival, there is never a dull moment.
The piece takes a while to find its groove because the set-up has to be established—the three at-odds students find themselves trapped in the detention room, having been locked in by their teacher, Renfield (Michael Donaldson), who unbeknownst to the teens is still serving Dracula, even in a modern-day Transylvanian high school. If this sounds like The Breakfast Club juxtaposed with a horror film to create comic shenanigans, it's supposed to.
Other than the set-up, however, the plot is decidedly different than the John Hughes classic. The teen angst is less replaced by howling wolves, rain made of blood, and musical numbers than supported by these things. And of course there's the ghost of that guy with fangs who is once again prepared to take over the world, if through convoluted (and hilarious) means.
The key to making all this work is that it has to be funny. And, it is. Kenneth Molloy's writing is solid and Daniel Johnsen's timing (with an assist by Zealan Salemi) is spot-on, although apparently we have Dracula to thank for it. (You'll see.) Although no set designer is listed, whoever is responsible for the excellent use of the screen and projector to grace us with Master Dracula's (Alex Mills) presence deserves an award for most appropriate use of multimedia and funniest incarnation of Dracula yet. We'll go with Dracula on that smart move too, just to save our necks.
The acting chops of the cast are just dandy—heck, they can even carry a tune!—but the show is once again, as with every production about Dracula, stolen by the pasty-faced man in the cape and the bad haircut, or, in this case, his ghost. And he never even appears in person! Manifested through a disembodied voiceover as well as through the seriously hilarious slides, Dracula proves once again he is a comedic force to be reckoned with.
Ghost of Dracula is not full of the usual twists and turns, but it is full of blood, and nothing sacred is left untouched as a source of jokes. We're pretty sure everyone will be offended by at least one thing—for example, holy water becomes holy urine at one point, and thus a weapon of choice—but it really is all in good fun, if not the clean kind.
The lighting design by T. Rick Hayashi is serviceable, but the blackouts remained an untapped opportunity for—yes! even more!—comic moments. The costumes by Megan Kensil are well-edited and certainly brought to mind the teen world of John Hughes. The fight choreography by Seth Bridges is surprisingly funny—in a good way!—and the original music by Sydney Matthews is engaging and enjoyable. The only thing you really need to decide before going is whether you're on the side of Team Van Helsing (you'll see) or the Prince of Darkness. Us? We're going with the guy in the motorcycle jacket channeling Anthony Michael Hall.