The La Cañada Playhouse’s latest performance, taking place from March 24 through March 26, transported the audience into the eerie land of Transylvania, home to the titular Count Dracula (Jordan Jaross, 10) and his three bloodsucking brides (Maggie MacKenzie, 10; Juliette Arcaris, 11; Kendall Knudsen, 10). The play follows Jonathan Harker (Connor Hall,10), a solicitor sent to oversee the transfer of a piece of London property to the Count, unaware that his client in fact an ancient vampire seeking to acquire a new population of victims. When Jonathan’s friends and family join him in Transylvania, Count Dracula’s heinous nature is revealed, awakening an all encompassing struggle between good and evil.
Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” is easily one of the greatest horror stories ever put to writing, and this production did a fantastic job of bringing the unearthly atmosphere to life. The acting, the music, the foggy stage: all of it contributed to the suspense that kept the audience on edge throughout the performance. Most memorable was the introduction to Castle Dracula, when one of the actors (having surreptitiously slipped behind the audience during the scene) let out a piercing scream so sudden that everyone jumped out of their seats with a gasp. It was brilliant.
One thing that did bother me a little was the story. As a huge fan of the original book, I was disappointed that the script strayed so far from the source material. In an effort, I suppose, to condense the somewhat complex epistolary novel into a 90 minute play, it streamlined a lot of the important events and changed the setting and history of some of the scenes and characters. This affected the level of development that the main characters seemed to have: the story hurried along too quickly for character motivations and backstory to truly be understood. I feel that for someone with little background on the story, the plot would’ve been a bit difficult to follow.
Of course, this was hardly the performers’ fault. The cast themselves did extremely well despite the rushed nature of the script. Dracula and the other vampires were ominous and sinister, commanding all the attention whenever they were onstage, and the protagonists were endearingly heroic. On the whole, it was an enjoyable experience, made even more impressive by the time crunch the cast was under while preparing.
“We didn’t have much time to rehearse compared to when we performed ‘Christmas Carol’ because there were events in the auditorium throughout the previous weeks,” said Jordan Jaross, who played Dracula. “But nevertheless our cast took all of the rehearsals seriously and with the dedication of our director and our crew we were able to pull it off. It was a great experience overall and I look forward to being with all of these wonderful people in the future.”
The La Cañada Playhouse’s next performance will be the musical “Mamma Mia!” on April 25-28. It’s their last play of the year, so be sure to check it out!