Hip Shot: Dracula. A Love Story.
Mountain – Mount Vernon United Methodist Church
Friday, July 18 at 10:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 20 at 6:15 p.m.
Thursday, July 24 at 8:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 26 at 10:45 p.m.
They say: He is the gleaming demon of our dreams. His capacity to love exceeds ours. He loves with the force of gravity. He promises eternal life and calls upon us to drink his blood. He is God. He is Dracula.
Joshua’s Take: Think you’ve had your fill of Dracula revisions? I thought so too. American culture hit peak vampire in 2008, when the last Twilight book was published, the movie franchise was unleashed, and the world financial system collapsed as a direct consequence. So I came to Dracula. A Love Story. (sic) with a deep feeling of skepticism. Aren’t “vampire story” and “love story” two genres that have been mashed-up to a pulp at this point? Isn’t Dracula typically played as gothic romance anyways? And shouldn’t there be a freakin’ colon in the name of this show? But despite my reservations, I found this Dracula to be an enjoyable synthesis of self-conscious camp and genuinely engrossing supernatural drama.
And that is no easy feat. Every adaptation of Dracula needs a few in-jokes and nods to earlier incarnations, but too many spoil the fantasy. The Count and his enraptured victims absolutely must wax poetic about the usual vampire stuff (blood, the night, hunger, et cetera), but botch the delivery and it elicits unwanted laughter. Happily, the performers in A Love Story know when to let the audience in on the joke and when to play it straight.
Playwright Tim Treanor (a senior writer for DC Theatre Scene), along with directors Christopher Henley and Jay Hardee, often allow their characters to fly off on grandiloquent Victorian reveries. But just when they reach the point of melodramatic excess, another character’s wisecrack or an unexpectedly quotidian reference snaps the action back to Earth. Early on, Lucy Cervas (Carolyn Kashner) politely declines the hospitality of charming-but-creepy D.C. lobbyist Vlad Tepes (Lee Ordeman) with a spin on the famous line from the Tod Browning film: “I never drink… wine. I’m allergic to the sulfites.” Meanwhile, Tepes himself, despite being a semi-immortal demon who hung out with Jesus of Nazareth and brutally impaled scores of Ottoman Turks, still likes to kick back with a Bud Light and play Xbox.
Dracula: A Love Story (there, I fixed it) delivers most of the story beats we expect from countless films, plays, TV shows, and comic books, but with a few comedic twists and a couple surprisingly bleak ones. This game, of manipulating audience expectations before finally satisfying them, is one the show plays well, at least until its final moments. I’m guessing that a sizable chunk of the audience will find A Love Story’s grim ending a bit tone-deaf. Yes, it’s a dark turn for a production that’s principal strength is that it never takes itself too seriously (which is itself a way of being serious, especially in the realm of fantasy). But I welcomed it. We in the theater shouldn’t need a happy ending to have a good time.
See it if: You have an undying thirst for well-told vampire tales.
Skip it if: You are Salon senior writer Laura Miller.