Tuesday November 21st 2017

“Dracula” The Hypocrites

Somewhat Recommended ** Over the years (in fact 20 years), I have watched the work of Sean Graney and his Hypocrites Theater Company. Most of their work is ultra-exciting and extremely different, creating surprising and deeply engaging theater in its interpretations. Their current production, “Dracula”, now being presented at The Mercury Theater Chicago, that gem of a theater on Southport Avenue, fits the mold, but, for some reason, Graney’s adaptation is played out in two acts with a long intermission, causing the audience to leave the story and once they have, it is hard to get back into.

The original script, from which Graney’s interpretation/adaptation came from was written  by Timothy F. Griffin (and is based on the Bram Stoker character). This production uses the petite stage of The Mercury in a unique fashion. John Musial has designed a set that is a walled room (with some movement) and it has the ability to be used to represent different rooms, in different buildings, with great ease. The lighting by Mike Durst is clever and sets the moods that director Graney desired to bring us, and the sound (Joe Griffin) was almost perfect. When doing something as creative as bringing a monster to a small stage, one needs a specialist to create the violence and gore design. Many people did not even know that such a theater position even existed. It does, and Jon Beal handles it with a great touch.

This is a HORROR show, so one can expect to see blood, and bloody incidents and lots of blood (well, stage blood, anyway). The story in this production? Oh, yes. There is a storyline. The world we are visiting is one where the characters we meet are caught between repression and liberty. It is a “Man’s World” and women are trying to get a leg up, into it. The male characters in the play are afraid that should they do so, their places in the world will be lessened. So, this being said, according to Graney, “Dracula” asks the question “How do you deal with a society that claims to promote equality, yet everyday actions and attitudes go against that”. Isn’t that what we see, even now?

I will say that Graney has put together a sharp cast to bring this play to the stage: Maurice Demus as Jonathan, Dracula’s lawyer, who becomes a victim as he visits his client for the first time to deliver some papers. He is engaged to the lovely Mina ( adorably played by Aurora Real De Asua) who is the woman who takes the lead towards attaining freedom for her and her “sisters” of the future. I can’t tell you anymore than that, because it would spoil the actual events. There is another woman, Alice Renfield ( deftly handled by Erin Marlow) who enters into this as well. She appears to be a mental-case when we first meet her, but all is not what it seems. The last of the ladies is Lucy ( the highly energetic Janelle Villas). Her scenes are amazing!

The other men in the cast are Robert Mclean as Van Helsing, who has studied Dracula since his college days and is now at the mental hospital next to Dracula’s home. It appears he is there as an employee/overseer, not as a patient, but there are times, when the opposite could be true. Steward (the zany John Taflan) is the nerdy employee at the center, who is in love with Lucy and the final actor, who I have saved for last, is Breon Arzell as Dracula. Watching this man romp from point A to point D is great stuff. There is magic in Graney’s direction and Arzell’s magnetism almost saves the day for this show (at least in my mind).

My personal thoughts; find a way to cut the production down to 90 minutes with no intermission and for God’s sake, take the cuss words out so high schoolers will be able to see it. It is very “campy” ( do they still use that term?) reminding me of the silly stuff back in the “Batman and Robin” days of Television (the 1960’s). Camp can be fun and funny and there are some great bits in this production. There are moments of horror, moments of comedy and moments of human exploration. There is no question, “Dracula” is a product of the mind of one Sean Graney!

“Dracula” will have a short run at The Mercury Theater Chicago, located at 3745 N. Southport Avenue thru November 5th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays  8 p.m.

Thursdays  8 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets range from $30-$55 and can be purchased by calling 773-325-1700, in person or online at www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com, where you can also buy special dinner packages (includes valet parking, snacks at intermission and dinner).

Parking can be a problem (if the Cubbies are still playing and they could be) but valet parking is right at the door and the cost is reasonable.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Dracula”.


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