The exploration of the relationship and power dynamic between the doctor and the patient makes up the most coherent and engaging parts of the play. The evening begins to go off the rails as it incorporates more literal paranormal elements. Renfield’s psychotic internal struggles with Dracula go on for too long, and the use of a cartoonish Transylvanian accent makes it all very difficult to take seriously. In general the play would have been more effective if it had been about 20 minutes shorter (it ran about 1 hour and 35 minutes, which is, in fact, 15 minutes longer than the front-of-house staff told me it would be). After a while the play becomes tiresome and one-note; the mysterious haunting quality we feel at the beginning fades away, and the triteness in the writing starts to become more evident. The introduction of a new character late in the play is not as compelling as it could have been, and seemed to contribute to the unnecessary length. I won’t spoil the play’s final moment, but it seemed to me, at the end of the evening, to be somewhat laughable in its shock-seeking gratuitousness.
The acting and the direction were mostly very strong, given the circumstances. Whit Hertford’s direction utilizes the beautiful, old space to its advantage, and Ben Jacobs’ use of lighting and sparse scenic design served the story well. The inclusion of grotesque video footage projected onto a screen, however, seemed to be aiming for an effect that didn’t quite land.
The two main actors are both well cast; Justin Stahley effectively captures Dr. Seward’s transformation from level-headed and slightly awkward, to broken, unstable and distraught. Chris Spyrides’ portrayal of Renfield is fascinating and disturbing, though it loses its striking effect over the course of the play, perhaps relying a bit too much on histrionics.