Michael Altieri who is co-starring in this revival of a revival of Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston based on the original novel by Bram Stoker at the Little Shubert Theatre is no Frank Langella.
Mr. Langella, rightfully so – I saw him – was nominated for a Tony as Best Actor for his suave, seductive and sexy portrayal of the Count in the 1977 production with fantastic sets by Edward Gorey which won for Best Revival and Best Costumes of said opus dealing with the living dead.
And that’s just how Mr. Altieri comes across. As a stiff. Without much life or magnetism. And unfortunately looking very much like a raven haired Fabio with as much seductive powers as a stick of substitute butter.
His co-star is George Hearn as Abraham Van Helsing a man of many accents (wish Mr. Hearne could settle on one) who has been brought into the 1914 English household of Dr. Seward (Timothy Jerome) whose daughter Lucy (Emily Bridges) is ailing with a mysterious illness, two tiny marks on her neck and bad dreams – a foreshadowing of this production laboriously directed by Paul Alexander. She is cold and languid. As is Count Dracula when he shows up as the new vampire in town living on his neighboring estate.
Under the influence of Dracula, Lucy has lost interest in her beau Jonathan Harker (a fine Jake Silbermann). Her maid Miss Wells (an amateurish Katherine Luckinbill) who has also been swayed by the Count removes an overly large garland of wolfsbane and wooden crucifix from Lucy’s neck so that the Count and Lucy can partake of a ridiculous pas de deux for vampires in Act II.
If all this sounds like howling good fun, it isn’t. And it could be. The audience was dying to laugh. Despite the howls and barking dogs, the fog, the bats flying about and the Spider-Man antics of Renfield (an oddly interesting John Buffalo Mailer) an American patient of Dr. Seward who dines on flies and spiders, escapes often from his guard Butterworth (Rob O’Hare) and is also under the spell of Dracula.
Perhaps an all out spoof of this aging tale could have worked better. In the vein of Charles Busch or Carol Burnett. There is a bit about Mr. O’Hare’s hair that should have been a clue as to the direction Dracula could have taken rather than the heavy handedness on view.
Take note of the draperies and see if they do not remind you of the famous Tara Gown worn by Ms. Burnett in her spoof of Gone With the Wind. That memory will take the chill off the evening. Or better still buy a “BITE ME” tee shirt at the concession stand post-mortem.
Photo: Carol Rosegg
Through March 13th, 2011. www.draculaonstage.com
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