Dracula moonlighting as a blood-sucking lobbyist in downtown DC? Brilliant. A young Washingtonian concerned life should be more than the humdrum of laws, policies, and phone calls. Accurate. An ongoing pontification of life vs. death? Yep. Love—the kind you would die for? Of course!
Latching onto pop-culture’s fascination with the undead, Dracula. A Love Story brings Vlad the Impaler (aka Vlad Tepes)—and all his legends—close to home in a play that mixes camp with realism in a dialogue infused rumination about life, love, and, yes, even death.
One could argue that vampires are old news, but since I can remember, they’ve held the spotlight with nary a break, starting with the mid-90s mini-series re-vamp (no pun intended) of Dark Shadows (any one remember that??) all the way to last year’s movie. In between, we’ve had Lestat and Louis in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (my personal fave) and Bella and Edward from the Twilight trilogy.
But, if you disdain that latter crap—wanting more from your bloodsuckers than an over-hyped love story played out by the awful Kristen Stewart—then pop in on this Capital Fringe offering.
Lee Ordeman as Vlad Tepes/Dracula is perfectly slimy in a creepily attractive way, creating strong chemistry with both his paramours, Mina (Christine Hirrel) and Lucy (Carolyn Kashner).
Lucy is a sharp, if somewhat disheartened, graduate student on the verge of starting a life whose meaning she questions. Taking a position as caretaker for Vlad’s sick wife, she’s swept into Vlad’s seductive arms as he drives a stake (pun intended) between her and her father, Will (Brian Crane), and her fiancée, Jack (Joe Brack).
The play borrows from the classics (Stoker and Shakespeare, of course, and, at times, I felt hints of Wallace Stevens’ divine “Sunday Morning” poem) and the directors, Jay Hardee and Christopher Henley, deftly set the mood in each scene.
Using a sheer white fabric backdrop that billows gently at just the right times, taking on whatever hues thrown from the lighting above, this production accomplishes so much with so little, as the best of the Fringe often does. It could easily be taken to a large-scale production as easily as it plays out with Fringe minimalism.
Playwright Tim Treanor, too, provides an excellent script that combines wit and woe without all the melodrama usually present in tragedies (because, let’s be honest, when Dracula is involved, nothing ends well). He’s a keen observer of life with an ear for dialogue, capturing common human sentiments and ideas with welcomed clarity—“Every generation creates a miracle and then forgets it was a miracle,” says Eva Calderone, a parapsychologist enlisted to help Lucy as she falls, irretrievably, under Dracula’s spell.
But Treanor’s best writing deals with passion’s power: “The secret to great love is willingness” says Vlad Tepes.
Dracula . A Love Story
by Tim Treanor
900 Massachusetts Ave NW
Details and tickets
But, in the end, the love Lucy values most isn’t the one you’d expect: it’s a nice twist that turns the typical vampire tale on its head.
An intriguing update to a classic that has the potential to stand out on its own merits within a saturated canon, Dracula. A Love Story. is a gem, starting with it’s provocative title and leaning on its strong cast, splendid script, and excellent direction.
Note: Playwright Tim Treanor, director Christopher Henley and actor Joe Brack are no strangers to readers of DC Theatre Scene. The reviewer, who has no personal connection with them, was not influenced by that fact with this review.
Mentioning everyone except Josh Speerstra was a mistake. While he wasn’t afforded much stage time, his Redland was awesome.