By Holli Harms
Kate Hamill’s Dracula is a classic not so much reimagined as reconsidered for the #MeToo Movement. The book was written at a time when Men called the shots and that is how it has been portrayed down through the ages in theatre adaptations and film adaptations until now, until Ms. Hamill decided it needed updating. Indeed.
Count Dracula (Matthew Amendt) is having a difficult time of it in his hometown of Transylvania. All the locals are on to him and his HenchWOMEN vampires, Druscilla (Laura Baranik) and Marilla (Lori Laing), so the townies hound him and his castle and keep their families as far away and safe as is feasible. Their torment is making his days and nights utterly impossible for a Vampire. He needs a new place, a new beginning, new blood, so he engages the help of Jonathan Harker (Michael Patrick Crane), an English solicitor, who is acting as an estate agent for the Count to help him procure English property, London property to be exact. The bustling city life with its thousands of unsuspecting inhabitants will be Dracula’s next hunting ground. Unbeknownst to Jonathan, he is also headed straight into a Vampire Lair where he will be the main and daily snack for the Vampires, slowly debilitating and changing him.
Back in Harker’s hometown are his best friend, Dr. Seward (Matthew Salvidar), Dr. Seward’s fiancee’ Lucy ( Jamie Ann Romero), and Lucy’s best friend and Jonathan’s wife, Mina (Kelly Curran), who happens to be, in this version, very much pregnant. In the town there is also a patient in Dr. Seward’s Asylum for the Mentality Insane, Renfield (Kate Hamill), who knows all about Dracula and his sinister ways and who calls him “father” and does all she can to be a good servant to him.
When Dracula discovers that Jonathan has a wife whose best friend, Lucy, is an unmarried young beautiful woman he is obliged to go to the small town and meet her, and, well, take a dip in her blood. Bringing with him Hell to all.
Eventually, Dr. Van Helsing (the exquisite Jessica Frances Dukes), vampire expert and hunter, shows up to save the soul of Lucy and rid the world of Dracula.
This Dracula, which may be the quintessential retelling of the story, sticks mostly to Stoker’s story and the characters, but it takes a modern twist, or maybe not twist, but a deeper look at the obvious. Count Dracula belongs in the #MeToo Movement and time is up for this soul sucker. He has women he lured in with promises of life everlasting and then turns them into monsters where they are starving and feeding on rodents and the occasional infant. And they, in turn, have to do his bidding as his slaves forevermore. Renfield, written as a male, is here played by a woman, and so again, the one that Dracula entices with lies and gets to do his dirty work, is female. He treats the women as objects for his own pleasure, at his beck and call and literally sucks the life out of them.
He rapes them of their lives and then blames them for his misconduct and eventually discards them when they no longer serve his needs.
Kate Hamill, both actress in the play and it’s playwright, has created not only a feminist Dracula but a farcical laugh out loud Dracula. Matthew Amendt’s Count is handsome and debonair and wonderfully egocentric. He prances across the stage with the bloated self-centeredness of a peacock in heat. He is a monstrous devilish misogynistic barrel of outlandish fun to watch.
The entire cast and show are perfection.
The women in Miss Hamill’s Dracula discover they’re fighters. Mina especially finds her inner warrior at the guidance of the bloody fantastic Jessica Frances Dukes’ Van Helsing. This time the hunter is a woman and she is SOME woman. She swaggers onto the stage with the confidence of a superhero. She is a force to be reckoned with.
Sarna Lapine’s direction is a rocket to the moon. A steady smooth trajectory of theatrical geography. Lighting and scenery are minimalism at its best. And the costumes! Superb. The palette, mainly white, is a perfect background for the red of the blood, and how Robert Perdziola creates the blood is genius. I will say no more. Some things should be left for a surprise.
This is a “must-see” production of 2020. Hands down and neck up.
Dracula by Kate Hamill Based on the Novel by Bram Stoker Directed by Sarna Lapine
With: Matthew Amendt, Laura Baranik, Michael Patrick Crane, Kelley Curran, Jessica Frances Dukes, Kate Hamill, Lori Laing, Jamie Ann Romero, and Matthew Saldivar
Creative Team: Scenic Designer and Artistic Director John Doyle, Costume Design Robert Perdziola, Lighting Design Adam Honore’, Sound Design Leon Rothenberg, Fight Director Michael G. Chin, Prop Supervisor Carrie Mossman, Dramaturg Kristin Leahey, Dialect Coach Jane Guyer Fujita, Associate Scenic Design David L. Arsenault, Associate Costume Design Hwi-Won Lee, Associate Lighting Design Shannon Clarke, Production Stage Manager Sarah E.T. Jackson, Assistant Stage Manager Giles T. Horne
Dracula is running in Rep with Frankenstein at CSC Lynn F. Angelson Theater Through March 8, 2020
136 EAST 13TH ST NEW YORK, NY 10003 212.677.4210
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with Intermission (Trust me flies by)