By Kathleen Kirby
In this season of ghosts and goblins, Clio Cast and Crew opened their season Friday with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek version of the well known vampire story, “Dracula”. A nicely appointed set design, technically well-done sound and lights, and period correct costumes added to the overall effect.
Almost all the action here takes place in the office of Dr. Seward (Jeff Springgay) at his sanatorium outside London. Poor Seward’s daughter, Lucy (Dawn Sabourin), is suffering from night terrors and a suspicious anemia that no amount of transfusing can control. Her fiancé, Jonathan Harker (Ben Segal), has vowed to stay at her side until she recovers even though it apparently means he must don knickers for the duration.
At a loss medically, Seward calls on his old friend, the slightly avant garde Van Helsing (Hugh Rousseau), to put his expertise to the problem. Of course, Van Helsing immediately suspects the occult. He’s brought wolf bane with him, which he explains repels vampires. He then sets out to prove there’s a blood-sucker in their midst. (Who knew that sort could travel?)
Most of the suspicion falls initially on the wacky Renfield (Ben Hendricks) who goes about snatching flies out of the air to eat and cultivating spiders for a grander dinner. While not exactly blood sucking behavior, Renfield still reacts negatively to the wolf bane test.
Throughout, the presence of the new neighbor in a long black cape and a slight overbite isn’t considered suspicious at all. Count Dracula (Erik Horn) is treated by the Sewards as a welcome fellow especially as he has volunteered to give blood to Lucy. To their defense, this Dracula isn’t really all that oily although he is imposing. It can be assumed that the British sense of neighborliness does them in. However, they didn’t see him crawl out of the coffin early on as the audience did, so the dramatic irony of it all adds to the fun.
Okay, so you say this isn’t supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be frightening. Well, it has its moments replete with sudden flashes and attacks that can make one jump in their seat, but overall the effect is less trick and more treat.
Director Jeff Murdoch moves his cast around the stage well. He makes use of every bit of the area including the fireplace, the hidden passages, the spooky outdoors, and Dracula’s tomb. But these characters all seem to have a sort of cartoon aspect about them. Seward is straight laced to the extreme, Renfield is wonderfully weird, but not really menacing, while Van Helsing’s expertise in the matter often gets lost in wild-eyed eagerness.
We must also give a nod to the servants, Lyle Mikolanz, the attendant with the broad Cockney accent who cannot control Renfield, and Jody Henderson as Miss Wells, the maid who falls under the Count’s spell and nearly does Miss Lucy in.
All in all, this production is safe for the whole family and a frightfully fun way to celebrate the spooky season. “Dracula” continues at Theatre 57 through October 31. For more information: www.thecliocastandcrew.com