by Margret Echeverria
Vlad the Impaler continues to inspire imaginations of great writers like Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen to entertain us well into the twenty-first century. In 2023, we are already bloody terrified, so perhaps it’s better to stick with the sexy and absolutely absurd bits of the story. And why not confront with humor what is really terrifying – the patriarchy lurking in the shadows everywhere we go? Greenberg tightly directs a genius cast of actors, most of them playing more than one role, at the New World Stages in DRACULA, A COMEDY OF TERRORS, a show that will allow you to have a rip snort good time for 90 minutes and leave with a little hope in all this darkness.
At first, I’m thinking, did these actors fall on stage direct from our imagined 19th Century London and Transylvania? Seems so. And then, cleverly, they all grow and transform in tandem with the title character from whom we expect a metamorphosis. Andrew Keenan-Bolger our saucer-eyed innocent solicitor, Jonathan, is modernized. He embodies the male weaponized incompetence we are all talking about in 2023. As Dracula (James Daly) hisses at the mere suggestion of a mirror, Keenan-Bolger shows us a tender self-reflecting Jonathan who rebukes his flaws and an endearing giggle-worthy punk butterfly emerges. Daly’s Dracula is check-your-panties handsome, a mansplaining long-talker, with a puppy-fresh pointed teeth smile. He is shamelessly pan-sexual, as tall as the Poenari Castle Tower from which his bride threw herself, and in the shadows of his narcissism he almost “glamours” you into feeling sorry for him. The laughter bubbles over when we are introduced to Mina (Arnie Burton), who is a rather homely slut with some amazing finger tricks! Burton is also Ms. / Dr. Van Helsing, who is powerful and seductive, in that milk frau kind of way complete with two braided buns on top of her head and apron dress, making for some great chemistry with John Seward (Ellen Harvey), who is also the bug eating asylum patient, Renfield! Seward’s daughter,
Lucy (Jordan Boatman) the woman for whom all the trouble is made, is Helen of Troy gorgeous. With heaving bossom, she is such a master of physical comedy that we and all the “men” on the stage are afraid to take our eyes off of her. Tempered with patience for all the chaos around her, the love she bears in her heart is co-committed to her chosen family, banishing the boring codependent Lucy other productions have given us; Boatman offers a Lucy in control of her life. All the double-casting makes for a French comedy on steroids with rapid entrances and exits and changing of characters and motivations. You’ll LOVE it!
Did I say the direction is tight? Baby, you have no idea. Because everyone knows this story and how to make it the butt of a joke, traps lay as open as Anastasia’s tower window, to tepid sophomoric attempts at comedy. But Greenberg runs a disciplined cast who are masters at visual gags, line placements, and risk taking with props, such as spray cans of fog and a bat on a catfishing stick that make for measured and refreshing comedic fire. This is how comedy is done! No tripping into traps here. Run to see this show and treat yourself this Halloween season, Kids.
DRACULA, A COMEDY OF TERRORS by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen, directed by Gordon Greenberg.
WITH James Daly (Dracula), Andrew Keenan Bolger (Actor 1), Ellen Harvey (Actor 2), Jordan Boatman (Actor 3) and Arnie Burton (Actor 4).
Tijana Bjelajac, scenic & puppet design; Tristan Raines, costume design; Rob Denton, lighting design; Victoria Deiorio, original music & sound design; Morgon R. Holbrook, production stage manager.
Dracula, A Comedy of Terrors will play a 18-week limited engagement September 4 – January 7, at New World Stages, Stage 5 (340 West 50th Street.) Opening night is September 18. Performances are Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7PM, Friday and Saturday at 8PM, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2PM. Tickets are $99 – $119. Premium seating is available. Tickets are now on sale at Telecharge.com, (212) 239-6200. For more information, visit www.DraculaComedy.com.