Acting, music and special effects help ‘Dracula’ rise to the occasion at Corvallis Community Theatre
Damian Arlyn seems well aware of the immense cinematic tradition that looms over him in his most recent endeavor as director of “Dracula” for Corvallis Community Theatre.
Whether you’re thinking about Bela Lugosi’s iconic portrayal of him in the original 1931 American version of Bram Stoker’s classic, or Gary Oldman’s brilliantly redefining turn as the O.G. vamp in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 update, you’ve got more than 75 years worth of celluloid blood-sucking flapping giant leathery bat wings in your brain.
Which makes for a shadow that can be quite intimidating to step out from, both for the director and his leading man.
Fortunately, Arlyn has found in West Albany junior Rylan Woodrow a young actor that, while not threatening Oldman at this point in the game, nevertheless shows the kind of promise once displayed by another young area thespian, Albany’s Miles Fletcher.
Those fortunate enough to sink their fangs into a showing of “Dracula” will get to see both actors staking their parts directly through the hearts in what appears to be a sort of passing of the torch ceremony.
Fletcher, who will enter New York’s Tisch School of the Arts next fall, has never been better. As Jonathan Harker, the horror drama’s ineffectual leading man, he disproves that the character has to suck space like Keanu Reeves did in the Coppola version. Indeed, because of his performance, which so outshines his stagemates in nuance, intensity and dynamic, Arlyn’s version almost feels like a Bizarro version of that film, with Harker outshining Dracula.
But in another strange reversal of roles, Dracula saves the day. The extremely tall, lanky Woodrow commands the stage with not only his physical presence but a vocal performance that’s equally imposing when he’s whispering in a dead man’s crawl as when he’s screaming in defiance at his human pursuers in the second act.
Logan Cannon, who I’ve never seen before but who was mesmerizing as Dracula’s acolyte and accomplice R.M. Renfield, also shows himself to be an actor capable of both cartoonish characterization and detailed delivery in his supporting role. Charles Skinner and Kendal Zwang both offer compelling performances in the roles of the doomed would-be couple Dr. John Seward and Lucy Westenra.
At the heart of “Dracula,” however, are the feelings of fear and unrequited love that not only express themselves in nearly all of the characters, but also need to drip from the very stones of the asylum if the production is to be successful.
Arlyn, who spends his days managing DVD World in Corvallis, is just the movie geek for the job. With an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of “Dracula” on the silver screen, he can rattle off memorable performances even in extremely unmemorable movies. When he mentions Richard Roxburgh, who stunk up the already putrid mess that was “Van Helsing,” you know homeboy’s done his homework. [b Citing the influence of Gerard Butler in “Dracula 2000,” in addition to other usual suspects such as Christopher Lee, he has created both a Dracula that is engaging and haunting, and a world worthy of him.[/b
The music adds to the feeling of sometimes intangible menace, as do the well-appropriated special effects and unexpected uses of the stage. What looks at first two-dimensional and static is transformed through clever lighting and careful storytelling into a series of emotionally evocative environments.
It says in the program that the show isn’t intended for small children, and perhaps that’s for the best. If you’ve got a stout fourth-grader or older, or just a friend that never grew up, however, “Dracula” is the perfect way of easing down from the dizzying heights of Halloween into the hum-drum gray routine of Fall.
If you bite
What: Corvallis Community Theatre’s presentation of “Dracula,” directed by Damian Arlyn, written by Steven Dietz and based on the novel by Bram Stoker
Where: Majestic Theatre, 115 S.W. Second St., Corvallis
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11; 2:30 p.m. Nov. 5 and 12
Cost: $10 general and $8 students and seniors; Thursday, Nov. 9, is Bargain Thursday, and all seats are $8
Tickets and information: 738-7469 or www.corvalliscommunitytheatre.org