by LaGuardia Arts

LaGuardia Arts’ Spring Drama Festival 2008 comes to a violently amusing end with Dracula – a play adapted from the Bram Stoker novel and directed by Lee Lobenhofer. His show opens with three femme fatale brides of Dracula appearing one by one under the three arches of Dracula’s castle. Then a coffin rises up from beneath the stage, the brides gathering to open the casket and allow their undead husband to awaken. As he feeds his wives with his blood, his other minions begin descending down the aisles, gathering on the stage and then lining up along its perimeter, bathed in red light, coming to feed on us – the audience. And the lights go out!

The show is filled with great visuals including clever staging by the director, masterful lighting by Keith Truax, and exquisite interiors by scenic designer Scott Aronow. Select pieces of classical music enhance the mood. The story itself doesn’t usually transfer very well to the stage, but by turning it into a comedy-drama, this one is pretty entertaining.

Ricky Goldman is Dracula, playing him with a hypnotic and comical evilness, and with the enviable ability to burn garlic in a trashcan with the wave of a hand. Many of the roles are double-cast, with Andrea Kayda as Dracula’s love interest Mina on opening night, sweetly creepy throughout as she is under Dracula’s spell from almost the beginning, lying to her family with wide-eyed innocence and agreeing to the murder of her friend Lucy with a slow, but encouraging, nod. Jessica Varley is said Lucy, doing good as both a nice nineteenth-century English girl and as a wicked, bloodsucking, nineteenth-century English vampire. Seth Pearce is a determined vampire hunter Van Helsing aided by a scientific, business-like Dr. Seward (Tyler-Marie Walker) who runs the local asylum. Sam Borenzweig is Mina’s luckless fiancé Jonathan Harker who goes to Transylvania to broker a land deal and runs into a buyer eager to make a killing in real estate…

Most of the show’s comedy revolves around Mina’s quirky family. Peter Oliver is Henry, Mina’s father, who displays uncommon comic timing and uses vocal and physical mannerisms to great effect. Martha is the mother, with Tara Sonin working off her husband perfectly, making for a most hilarious little couple that could be a sitcom in themselves. Especially if helped by Madeline Stolow as their near-sighted, hard-of-hearing maid Charlotte – her glum, bored, slow countenance a hoot to watch, her near-blindness causing near-disasters with the household furniture. Yes, despite her eye trouble, she is the only one who can see the belt on the floor that everyone else has had to ignore – a belt left on stage during an earlier scene after a scuffle. Madeline pauses before exiting the living room, her eyes focusing on the belt as if a bit confused, slowly walking up, picking it up like a dutiful maid, and exiting to the applause of the audience.

And then there is the vampire’s family. Janice Alago, Ayanna ‘Peaches’ Francis, and Ligeia Moltisanti are Dracula’s sensuous ‘brides’ who take great pleasure in their work. Ryan Isles is Dracula’s butler who amuses with his methodical movements and wide, fake grin when he tries to look charming. And then there’s Gaspare DiBlasi as a hilarious wannabe vampire Renfield, whose belt was lost in his kidnapping – another good physical comedian who claims he can count but doesn’t know how to Count Dracula, suggests Dracula wouldn’t eat people because he’s a vegetarian, and who gets carried off by the men in white coats with his feet up in the air while crazily claiming “I’m the vampire! I’m the vampire!” and gnashing his teeth hungrily.

He, of course, is going to join the inmates of the asylum. These consist of LaGuardia’s talented ensemble of crazed actors. They open the second act with their screaming, tantrums, laughing, and taunting of sane people. One of them flirts with Lucy’s fiancé (Zach Bleckner) by licking the walls. Meanwhile, the vampires plot how to keep biting the necks. How well do they succeed? Ah, but that’s part of the play’s final comic twist!

Performs May 1 - 4, 2008.

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Dracula: Ricky Goldman
Seward: Tyler-Marie Walker
Van Helsing: Seth Pearce
Mina: Andrea Kayda
Lucy: Jessica Varley
Jonathan Harker: Sam Borenzweig
Arthur Holmwood: Zach Bleckner
Renfield: Gaspare DiBlasi
Martha: Tara Sonin
Henry: Peter Oliver
Charlotte: Madeline Stolow
Janice Alago
Ayanna 'Peaches' Francis
Ligeia Moltisanti
Dracula's Attendant: Ryan Isles
Inmates of the Asylum:
LA Block
Suke Osborne
Melissa Saavedra
Cara Braglila
Gwendolyn Legendy
Victoria LoPresti
Lily DePaula
Francesco Tisch
Taylor Manson
Lucius Tuck
Emily Skeggs

Director: Lee Lobenhofer
Scenic Designer: Scott Aronow
Lighting Designer: Keith Truax
Costume Designer: George Hudacko
Production Stage Manager: Camille Suissa


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