Ah, the sound of wolves, or as Count Dracula calls them, "the children of the night." The IU Theatre is staging Steven Dietz’ adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel about the terrible Transylvanian in a nicely mounted production directed by Dale McFadden. The creative set by Gordon Strain with the aid of CC Conn’s lighting neatly works as a dank castle, a foggy London street, a hospital ward, a bedchamber and even a crypt. Kristen Held’s faithfully detailed period costumes added to the effect of nicely antiqued late nineteenth century patina.
I should say at the outset that IU’s "Dracula" has more of the atmosphere of a mystery thriller than a horror piece. There’s the tension of the battle and chase, but it’s a lot more like a Sherlock Holmes story than The Night of the Living Dead.
Actor Sam Wooten makes good use of his six-foot four-inch height as the evil vampire. Wooten’s Dracula is a very deliberate fellow, but perhaps even more menacing because of it. Robert Spaulding had the difficult role of Jonathan Harker, the young accountant who first is fascinated by the Transylvanian and his castle and later nearly destroyed by him. John Armstrong had the part of the resolute Dr. Seward. Dr. Seward becomes almost a "Watson" to the "Sherlock Holmes" like Dr. Van Helsing of Eric Van Tielen as they fight to defeat Dracula. Tenaya Hurst was appropriately pathetic as Lucy, the vampire’s first victim. Renee Racan had a part with more range as her friend, fellow victim of Dracula and later the person who turns the tables on the Count.
In the Bram Stoker’s novel and in many of the films based on it, the madhouse inmate Renfield, is simply a pathetic fly and spider-eating fellow. In Dietz’ play, Renfield is pathetic, but he’s also a thoughtful narrator, a figure with a warped but definite sense of humor, and – almost- a hero. David Sheehan did a fine job making the variety of this character make dramatic sense.
The IU Theatre production of "Dracula," is perhaps not a horror piece, but as directed by Dale McFadden with plenty of dramatic and yes, scarey moments, plays each evening this week through Saturday in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre.