Review: Very Little Theatre shows big success with ‘Dracula’ play

‘Dracula’ is performed at the Very Little Theater in Eugene, Ore. on Nov. 1, 2018. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

It’s the 90th year of operation for the Very Little Theatre. What better way to celebrate than with a rendition of the classic “Dracula.” The play is based on the 1897 classic novel written by Bram Stoker and directed by Stanley Coleman. Throughout the performance, the actors ensure there is never a dull moment. VLT uses their small budget to produce an excellent interpretation of Stoker’s novel.

The play follows the classic vampire, Dracula, whose presence brings terror to those around him. The audience gets to explore Dracula’s quest  (played by Joel Ibanez) from Transylvania to London in search of new blood. Throughout the play, the characters explore themes of pureness, deviant behavior and fear of the unknown. This makes for a good story while also showcasing the roots Stoker imposed in his novel.

Though “Dracula” is coined as a “horror” piece, one of the best parts of this performance is the production. For  being a small theatre, the efforts put into the lighting schemes, the set-up of the stage and the way in which the story is told make this performance much stronger. The theatre was shockingly mall, which is at first a bit off-putting. However, midway through the performance, the small setting was no longer odd, but rather fit with the performance quite well.

From the start of the play, the character Renfield, played by Blake Beardsley, immediately interacts with the crowd. From looking as if he is somewhat sane while sipping some wine to pleading to “master” in an almost-naked rage, Beardsley steals the crowd’s attention. The smoke from the stage coming through the audience in various scenes creates a more intimate feel and brings the viewer deeper into the story. Lastly, the lighting used within this performance was great for each scene. Whether it was an outdoor scene or one within Dracula’s chambers, the play benefited from this format.

The actor’s performances were another aspect that made the production stand out. Each character established their presence and demonstrated why they were important in the story. Whether it was Lucy, who is played by Melanie Moser, screaming to the top of her lungs and working to seduce Dr. John Seward, or Dracula controlling the characters around him, it brought the book to life.

One can even go a layer deeper in the character development of the actors and see the themes related to the story. For example: the idea of pureness as it relates to women within the story. We see this with the three vixens who present themselves as sexual deviants, but are wearing all white. Also, the effect Dracula has on those who submit themselves to him is a big theme. Renfield practically commits suicide to please Dracula and Lucy is no longer recognizable after falling victim as well.    

Like most good things, it has to come to an end. The Dracula play concluded by bringing the story full circle and solving the mystery haunting London. If one had never seen a Dracula movie before or read the book, this will be a fun mystery to watch.

Dracula will run Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. through November 8-10. For tickets and more information, visit the Very Little Theatre website.