TWS dwells on the dark side of ‘Dracula’
Sara Herndon of Lisle as Mina, Chris Bruzzini of Melrose Park as Count Dracula and Jennifer Price of Burr Ridge as Lucy in the Theatre of Western Springs' production of "Dracula." | Photo by Peter Bosey
Theatre of Western Springs, 4384 Hampton Ave., Western Springs
8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18-20, 25-27; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 and 28.
(708) 246-3380; theatrewesternsprings.com
Expect blood and white knuckles and a quickening of the pulse.
Just in time for the spookiest night of the year, the Theatre of Western Springs is bringing to life “Dracula,” one of the most spine-tingling tales of all time.
Artistic Director Rick Snyder is pulling out all the stops in this Steven Dietz adaptation of the Bram Stoker horror novel. The play incorporates the terror, psychological drama and sensuality of the classic story set in 19th century London. This is definitely not a vampire story for young people.
Snyder has opted not to back away from the overtly adult themes inherent in Stoker’s story.
“(Dracula) deals with our obsession with death and sexuality and violence,” said Synder, who joined TWS as artistic director this past February. “I think that’s why vampires, and Dracula in particular, continue to fascinate us. The story incorporates a lot of human drives, our flirtation with death and dangerous sexuality.”
The legendary play centers on Dracula, a Transylvanian vampire played by Chris Bruzzini, who arrives in London convinced that Mina, the fiancé of his solicitor Jonathan, is the reincarnation of his deceased wife, Elisabeta. He haunts Mina, first through his overtaking of her friend, Lucy, and eventually through direct contact.
As it slowly becomes evident that the strange occurrences and the women’s personality changes are the result of vampire forces, only Professor Van Helsing understands the extent of the terror that will be unleashed unless he can bring an end to the depravity.
The play goes back and forth in time with scenes occurring in a variety of macabre settings, including an insane asylum, a Transylvanian castle, a ship deck and Lucy’s boudoir.
“The set is very complex and stylized,” said Snyder “In many ways, the story is told through the set design, lighting and sound with minimal props.”
Both the sets and costumes are dark and help set the ominous tone. The elaborate set (which set a record for lumber used at a TWS production) has a stylized, other-worldy feel, with suggestions of vaguely familiar elements yet nothing recognizable.
In playing the iconic role of Dracula, who is the second most prevalent figure in film after Sherlock Holmes, Bruzzini has tried to explore Dracula’s charming side and his sensuality.
“Dracula is very compelling,” he said. “He must seduce people to do what he wants. Mortals can’t do that in such an obvious way but he’s not bound by mortal limitations.”
The role is a challenging one as Dracula is shown not only at different ages, but in other forms, including animals and in the impersonation of other characters.
Likewise, Lucy and Mina must possess the innocence and gentility of a Victorian woman who is then transformed into an erotic, sadistic being.
The tone and theme are likely to resonate with today’s audiences, particularly at this time of year. Although there are moments of humor, the play strikes a serious tone. “We’re trying to explore what it would be like to be in this situation,” said Snyder. “What would people do.”
At the very least, that’s something to sink your teeth into this season.