Tonika Todorova is an adventure architect and a passionate lover of the shared human experience.
Janelle Villas as Lucy and Breon Arzell as Dracula (Photo – Brett A. Beiner)
It takes a few moments while in the presence of The Hypocrites’ DRACULA to figure out what kind of play you are seeing. The legendary vampire has seduced many into bringing the work to life, with few that survive it unscathed. But on a Friday the 13th, with Halloween looming at the end of the month, this production brings on the artillery of laughs and saves us all from witnessing another over-produced vampire show by delivering some smart fun.
This ensemble has a marvelous talent for slipping in not-so-subtle social commentary, and they do so with great comedy and panache. They point out flaws until they become absolutely necessary elements in telling their tale, and when the camp is approached with love for its subject, the result is hilariously satirical. By the time Mina exclaims “Purity -another man’s construct,” you realize that Director Sean Graney’s solid adaptation has been dropping societal truth bombs left and right.
The cast handles this style with ease and fun, led by the two female leads Lucy (Janelle Villas and a killer bag of facial expressions) and Mina (Aurora Real De Asua made for strong heroines) and strongly supported by the rest of the talented lot: Robert McLean and John Taflan make up the great bumbling doctor team Van Helsing and Seward; Maurice Demus channels a perfectly hapless Harker; Erin Barlow portrays a cooky Renfield. And then there’s the titular character himself, brought to life by Breon Arzell. Although one wishes this Dracula can set himself apart as a bit more extraordinary, in this production, the play is hardly about him. It is about the women. A subject quite topical today resonates in Dracula’s own words: “How do you deal with a society that claims to promote equality, yet everyday actions and attitudes prove that the gatekeepers are afraid of losing their advantage?”
Bram Stoker might not have intended for his novel to be funny, but undoubtedly he would have approved of The Hypocrites’ approach to DRACULA. Perhaps, if one doesn’t take themselves too seriously, they manage to put the stake right through the heart of the beast.