Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Also see Wally's review of Stupid Fucking Bird
Albuquerque Little Theatre director Henry Avery has a lot of fun with this play right from the beginning, when he appears stage left after the first few notes of J.S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor." The creepy organ music introduces his fundraising speech and as such lends a tongue-in-cheek aspect to what must be the least fun part of an executive/artistic director's job.
From the proscenium build-out to the 30-foot turntable supporting three different scenes, set designer Ryan Jason Cook and lighting designer Max Protzen make sure the mood is right as the audience takes their seats. The hallmark of this season at ALT is this ambient outreach: the scene is set when we arrive; lights are dim; the fireplace glows (ominously?); the furniture is suitably European. In this case, though, the set-up is a baited trapand we fall for it.
In Deane's version, redone by Balderston, Count Dracula (Nick Fleming) has moved from Transylvania next door to Dr. Seward's (Eddie Dethlefs) London home and sanitarium. There goes the neighborhood. Seward's daughter Lucy (Fawn Hanson) is ill and obviously under the spell of her charming, 6'6"-tall neighbor. Jonathan Harker (the versatile Ryan Jason Cook) is her concerned fiancé.
Dr. Van Helsing (Mario Cabrera) has been summoned to diagnose what ails the pale Lucy. As the men slice and dice her symptoms, Seward's man Butterworth (Nick Ganjei) is searching for escaped lunatic Renfield (Dehron Foster). The servant Miss Wells (Laura Starkey) pops in and out like a cuckoo-clock maid as she announces their comings and goings. But Miss Wells has a larger role to play in this drama, as we shall see.
Van Helsing has experience with "vampyre" phenomena and persuades Seward to let him experiment with Lucy. Her father and Harker nervously agree to use her as bat bait. They are unaware that Miss Wells is already a "creature" of the Count and will do his bidding when summoned to Lucy's bedchamber. Starkey's fine acting shows the vampire's influence on her and helps bring about the iconic, erotic, neck-biting scene.
I chuckled while the frantic and pedantic Van Helsing, Harker, and Seward debated, for when the women are on stage, the futility of fighting this blood-sucking force of nature is most graphic. Hanson is a lovely Lucy, affecting and affected, stunning in the period gowns chosen by costume designer Joe Moncada. Hanson, Starkey, and Cabrera are making their debuts at ALT in this play. We'd like to see all three again.
Renfield likes spiders and flies the way Hannibal Lecter likes fava beans and chianti. The character serves as a bellwether for the onlooker, heralding Dracula's approach and displaying the symptoms of his own victimization, which are mirrored in Lucy. Foster's cackling, lip-sucking rendition of Seward's crazy patient is an audience favorite.
The last scene reaches down into the crypt beneath the house and all the way up into the overhead fly systems as the vigilante group make their way down stone stairs to Dracula's coffin. You'll get a delicious chill.
Through February 14, 2016, Friday-Saturday 7:30 pm, Sunday 2 pm, 224 San Pasquale SW, (505) 242-4750, albuquerquelittletheatre.org