by Lorie Lewis Ham
This past weekend a stage version of the classic tale Dracula opened at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, a perfect show for the Halloween season! This version was adapted by director Chris Mangels from the novel by Bram Stoker and runs until October 24.
For those not familiar with the story, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula. The novel and the play tell the story of his attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he can find fresh blood and spread the curse of the undead. A small group of young men and women battle to stop Dracula after one of their friends is lost to him. They are led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Since the original novel, many versions of the story of Dracula have been told, but it was nice to see the original story, which I think few people are familiar with anymore. It made me want to go read the book!
Those fighting Dracula are Jonathan Harker (Christopher Dorado), his fiancée Wilhelmina Murray (Rebekah Robles), Dr. Jack Seward (Brandon Grimsley), Quincey P. Morris (Justin Markham), Lord Arthur Holmwood (Benjamin Rawls), and Van Helsing (David Lemon). Also among the cast are Wilhelmina’s best friend Lucy (Schyler Mayo), and Renfield (JJ Gonzalez). The cast did a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life! While there is a minimal set, it works well for this show, keeping our focus on the characters and the intense drama of the story.Director Mangels took an unusual approach of having Dracula and his Brides portrayed by life-sized puppets which he designed. While the puppets were skillfully made and handled, and Chris Mangels as the voice of Dracula was chillingly perfect–I have to admit that I would have preferred to see Dracula played by a person. However, when Dracula is in his monster form the puppet was quite effective and scary. Nika Valk was cast as the voice, but was ill for much of opening weekend.
Despite my preference regarding the character of Dracula, the show was very enjoyable, well acted, and sufficiently creepy, making it a perfect night out for the month of Halloween. There is only one weekend left so hurry and get your tickets! Tickets can be purchased online at COSTheatre.org/tickets or by calling 559-730-3907.
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