The Banquet of Life with DRACULA at Actors’NET

by Lesley Grigg
Cat Miller and DeLarme Landes star in DRACULA at Actors'NET of Bucks County's production of DRACULA.

Cat Miller and DeLarme Landes star in DRACULA at Actors’NET of Bucks County’s production of DRACULA.

While some prefer to drink from the fountain of youth, DRACULA invites guests to dine at his “banquet of life” where the main course is immortality, only you have to give up your soul. Actors’NET of Bucks County’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel has the supernatural elements fans expect from this classic tale.

First we meet Renfield (Ken Ammerman), who provides the prologue to the play in a deranged Masterpiece Theatre sort of way. His crazed eyes and actions are consistent throughout the play as we learn of his obsession with meeting his “master” and all things blood related. Ammerman fully immerses into the character, even during certain bipolar moments where he may seem sane but maintains dark undertones.

The insanity transitions to sultry during the first scene where Lucy (Cat Miller) and Mina (Maryalice Rubins-Topoleski) discuss love, romance, and multiple suitors. The two ladies are natural in their slumber party-like banter. As the play progresses we see how natural both actresses are on stage. Miller’s expressions, actions, and reactions speak volumes, especially in scenes where she has no dialogue, only spot-on timing to convey her thoughts and to make Dracula’s supernatural powers over her seem real. She’s even believable when she’s sleeping, which she gets to do for multiple scenes. While Rubins-Topoleski doesn’t get to sleep as much, she makes up for it with screams. Her wails are loud enough to wake the dead, definitely not an inside voice, and at times a little much for a small space.

Ken Ammerman as 'Renfied' in Actors'NET of Bucks County's DRACULA.

Ken Ammerman as ‘Renfied’ in Actors’NET of Bucks County’s DRACULA.

The subjects of the girl-talk soon make an appearance. We meet Mina’s love interest, Jonathan Harker (Chris Capitolo), through his narrated love letters to her. At first we learn how serious he is about his work, and how aloof he is about the strange occurrences he experiences on a business trip to a Count’s castle in Transylvania. However, the longer he stays with the Count and meets the ladies of the house, the more Harker’s calm and intrigue wear off. We slowly see Harker transition from naive businessman to listless madman, then he mans-up in Act II to take care of business. Capitolo’s character development is evident in these transformations throughout the play and while I’d hoped his character would get a clue about his whereabouts in the beginning, I was rooting for him by the end.

Dr. Seward (John Helmke) is one of Lucy’s many suitors. We see him struggle with attaining Lucy’s hand and heart and also with understanding the mind of a madman. It seemed Helmke may have struggled with finding this character’s true voice as well, since his passion in this performance was not as believable as it could be. When it came to finding love and answers, his demeanor was a little too stoic and forced.

When it comes to passion, Count Dracula (DeLarmes Landes) was dripping with it. From a startling entrance to his dramatic head tilts before sucking out his life-force, Dracula oozed drama, but still had the ability to play it cool when he needed to.

Cat Miller and John Helmke in a scene from DRACULA at Actors'NET of Bucks County.

Cat Miller and John Helmke in a scene from DRACULA at Actors’NET of Bucks County.

Van Helsing (John Pinto) also had a flare for the dramatic and knowledge of all things dark and unnatural. He arrives on the scene to discover what is plaguing London and to help stop it. Pinto delivers an enthusiastic performance and brings energy to both his interactions and narrations on stage.

Other members of the cast include Dracula’s brides, or The Vixens (Jaci D’Ulisse and Kathryn Skelly) and an Attendant (John Wishnie). The set was well constructed with a unique see-through asylum cell, castle room, and Lucy’s boudoir that doubled as a hospital suite. The bone-chilling special effects were certainly cringe-worthy as the blood dripped and spurted on-set. While parts of the play felt jarring (such as when all characters on stage spoke at once, but no one could be understood) it was clear that these actors were given roles they could really sink their teeth into…and many of them did.

by Steven Dietz
Adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker
Directed by Cheryl Doyle
January 18-February 10, 2013
Actors’NET of Bucks County
at The Heritage Center
635 N. Delmorr Ave.
Morrisville, PA 19067

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