Dracula: A Woman Scorned
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., Oct. 22, 2004
Dracula: A Woman ScornedHyde Park Theatre, through Oct. 23
Running Time: 2 hrs, 10 min
I'm somewhat at a loss to describe this latest production from a chick & a dude productions, mostly because the play itself is difficult to get a handle on. It's billed as a "new consideration" of the Dracula story, penned by the "dude" half of c&dp, Shanon Weaver, and I suppose it could be considered new since, in this version, Dracula is no longer a count but a countess, her object of affection is now Dr. Shannon Van Helsing rather than Jonathan Harker's fiancée Lucy (although the fiancée conceit is maintained instead of Lucy, Van Helsing is now Harker's fiancée), and the hero of the tale is the madman Renfield rather than the formerly male Van Helsing. But beyond playing with genders and with the vampire legend itself, there really isn't that much that's "new." You still get Harker going to visit Dracula, the group of vampires attacking Harker, Dracula going after Lucy (and Van Helsing), and the men out for vengeance and retribution in the end. And while the female-on-female aspect of things could be considered somewhat out of the ordinary, it really doesn't take things far beyond the whole forbidden sexual desire theme that Bram Stoker's original Dracula was about, at least in part.
Setting newness aside, the production seems sometimes more unintentionally comic than intentionally dramatic. This might have been a result of the way director Melissa Livingston, the "chick" of c&dp, has her actors and even her designers approach the material. Often, the characters don't look at each other while they speak and listen, which doesn't make for much believable dramatic and/or sexual tension, and some of the performances are so overwrought as to be melodramatic in a comic way (e.g., there's only so much vampiric hissing in distressed leotards that a single observer can take). Add to this almost constant scene changes with some really creaky furniture (at one point, a table was purposely tilted, a glass of water was placed on it, and suddenly the scene became about whether or not the glass of water would tip and spill) and the same dunning, recorded piano music during every scene change, and chances are excellent you're going to elicit a chuckle or two.
Comedy, however, doesn't seem to be what cd&p are after here, a tenuous conclusion that I reached primarily because of the performance of Andrea Skola as Countess Dracula. Skola handles the Countess with such grace and reserved aplomb that she puts almost every Dracula I've ever seen to shame. With her auburn hair and perfect profile, Skola glides around the stage as if riding on air, a vision in satiny red and lace, with more than a bit of revealing décolletage to attract the straying eye. It's a seductive performance, and while some of the other performances occasionally match Skola's, such instances only occur when Skola's on the stage. So I'm left wondering: Were they going after camp, or were they going after sleepless nights? You'll have to be the judge.