Off-Broadway Review: DRACULA: A COMEDY OF TERRORS (New World Stages)

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by Kevin Vavasseur on October 24, 2023

in Theater-New York


Beware ladies and gentlemen and every other gender expression currently walking the planet.  There’s a new Dracula in town and he is HAWT! Looking much more like a young Dolph Lundgren than an old Bela Lugosi, the tall, blonde, Aryan ideal at the center of Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors is on the prowl for love, lust, blood, cake plates and narcissistic supply – not necessarily in that order. That is until he meets Lucy Westfeld – a very posh, British ingénue that Drac falls head over fangs for. Yet it’s the fast-paced, gag-glutted, puppet-packed, Carol Burnett meets Bram Stoker meets gender politics meets The Marx Brothers vibe, currently onstage at New World Stages, that make this visit to Dracula’s neon accented castle a mostly worthwhile trip. Who knew there were circuit-party boys in nineteenth-century Transylvania?

Andrew Keenan-Bolger and James Daly

It’s somewhere in the 1800s when a young, real estate agent named Jonathan Harker travels from London to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula. Upon first seeing the muscular Count, the meek and skittish Harker barely registers the incongruence of a single digit body-fat Adonis living within those creepy walls. (Since the cast dismissively threw copies of Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula off-stage during the show’s opening prologue, perhaps this is to be expected.) The flirty Count seems unsure about this latest business venture until Harker inadvertently shows his client a picture of his fiancée, Lucy Westfeld. Enchanted by her beauty and her neck (really, he actually comments on her neck) the Count is all in and purchases a run-down mansion in London.

Arnie Burton and James Daly

When the Britain-bound ship Drac and his coffin are sailing on sinks (most likely because he killed almost everyone on board), Harker fears his client is drowned at sea and the deal, and his commission, are lost as well. However, since Dracula is technically dead already, he surprisingly shows up at Jonathan and Lucy’s engagement party, no worse for wear. Sporting an impressive electric blue ensemble, Dracula begins his seduction of Lucy, Jonathan, Renfield, a maid, Lucy’s sister Mina – pretty much anything with a pulse. But his heart and canines are truly focused on Lucy, the woman he’s yearned for throughout the centuries. Being both a properly repressed and politely upper crust English girl, Lucy is both intrigued and repulsed by the sexy aristocrat. But he did bring those fat-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, dairy-free, cruelty-free (or whatever the actual line was) pastries to the party. He couldn’t be all bad. Or could he?

Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Jordan Boatman, James Daly, Ellen Harvey and Arnie Burton

While there are some legit laugh out loud moments in the show, especially when the entire cast is attacked by a bat, writers Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen’s script never seems sure of what story it is telling or what kind of show it is. Is it a laugh-a-minute joke fest?  A love story? A broad farce? A disguised comment on our youth obsessed culture? An exploration of the limitations of prescribed gender roles? A subversive study of masculinity? The show seemingly tries to be all of these and more, often at the same time. However, the result is mostly inconsistent tone and over-written storytelling.

Arnie Burton

Be that as it may, Greenberg as director gamely embraces the “everything all at once” quality of his writing and, directorially, often wins the battle. His precise and energetic staging keeps everything moving of a pace that never lags and he certainly knows his way around a sight gag, of which there are many. He also throws in excellent physical comedy set pieces and hilarious puppet work (with the cast as puppeteers) somehow creating a strong cohesion of actors and script. However, there is also a too long, retro bit on the physical appearance of one of the female characters that borders on the cruel.

Jordan Boatman and Arnie Burton

The actors themselves are all super talented and versatile with some playing multiple parts. In the title role, James Daly makes an entertaining and engaging Dracula though his Transylvanian (?) accent seems more a visitor to his characterization than a permanent resident. But perhaps that’s by design because, as written, the Dracula character is also inconsistent – more a device to help move the show along rather than being the story’s strong center. That job seems to have been given to the lovely Jordan Boatman as Lucy. Boatman is a wonderful actress who grounds the wacky proceedings in her layered portrayal of a young woman chafing at the bit of her society’s limited views of women and their potential.

Ellen Harvey

Andrew Keenan-Bolger is hilarious and endearing as the timid (and virginal) Harker who ambivalently grows into dashing manhood in a laughably bloody way. The scene-stealing Arnie Burton, who garners belly laughs by simply riding a scooter across stage, is excellent in his multiple gender-bending creations, including the ill-fated Mina. Broadway veteran Ellen Harvey marvelously switches between portraying the staid, conservative, man’s man Dr. Westfeld and his patient; the wild-haired, bug-eating Renfield. The overall proceedings are nicely supported by Tijana Bjelajac’s versatile drawing room set and humorous puppet designs. Tristan Raines‘ impressive period costumes are quite flattering except when they are amusingly not.

Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors is a fast-moving, silly comedy that tries to think deeply but not too much. And neither should you if you join Drac and his crew on their ridiculously anachronistic ride to immortality. Just be careful of the tall, blond guy in the electric blue cape. Especially if he brings dessert.

Jordan Boatman

photos by Matthew Murphy

Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors
New World Stages (Stage 5), 340 West 50th Street
Mon, Wed & Thurs at 7; Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on January 7, 2024
for tickets ($89 – $119), call 212.239.6200 or visit Telecharge
for more info, visit Dracula Comedy

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