There is no shortage of “good scares” during the month of October, and one of the best ways to enjoy Halloween season is by attending a live performance of a classic horror tale. To this end, Maurer Productions OnStage has brought COUNT DRACULA to the Kelsey Theatre at Mercer.
Ted Tiller’s script, based on Bram Stoker’s original novel, traces the familiar story of The Count’s attempt to convert the beautiful and demure Mina Murray (Stephanie Moon) into his lascivious vampire bride. In so doing, he exercises his ability to control others, including Renfield (Paul Phalen), a patient at Dr. Arthur Seward’s asylum, and Sybil Seward (Laurie Hardy), Dr. Seward’s sister.
At a loss to explain Mina’s failing health, her guardian, Dr. Seward (Scott Fishman), summons his friend and colleague, Professor Heinrich Van Helsing (Sean McGrath), to London to assist in treating Mina. As it becomes clear that Count Dracula (Joe Grosso) is at the root of Mina’s troubles, the two learned gentlemen, in tandem with Mina’s fiancé, Jonathan Harker (Michael Lovett), strive to end Dracula’s dominion over Mina.
MPO’s production features a few ingenious technical feats, which this review will not spoil for audiences! But be assured there are at least two particular moments in the show that are truly impressive in technical achievement. Kudos, also, to MPO for its beautifully appointed set, costumes, and lighting design.
The rest of the opening night performance, however, was uneven. A great deal of this can be attributed to Tiller’s script. Billed by some as a mystery/comedy, COUNT DRACULA relies on flashes of humor to ease the tension of the original story. These attempts at levity largely fell flat.
The script bends the chronology of Bram Stoker’s original novel, setting it in early-twentieth-century London. This allows for the use of a desk telephone, as well as the automobiles heard as characters arrive at and depart from Seward’s home/asylum. But it otherwise does not serve the story in any meaningful way.
Director John M. Maurer’s cast struggled throughout the show with maintaining accents, remembering lines, and delivering them timely and distinctly. Perhaps these issues can be attributed to opening-night jitters. Notable performances were delivered by Moon and Phalen, though it was difficult to hear Renfield during Act One. He was much more audible through the rest of the show, so this may have been a technical problem.
COUNT DRACULA runs through November 2 at Kelsey Theatre, on the campus of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ.
by Ted Tiller
Inspired by Bram Stoker’s novel
Directed by John M. Maurer
October 17 – November 2, 2014
Maurer Productions OnStage
at The Kelsey Theatre at Mercer
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550