After settling into our seats on opening night, I felt a tickle on the back of my neck. The start of the goosebumps that begin when the lights fade and the fog rolls into the Bingham Theatre each fall.
This is my favorite time of the year.
Thanksgiving is sweet and Christmas is special, but I may get most excited about the events surrounding Halloween, and the season would not be the same without my annual visit to Actors Theatre of Louisville for Dracula, presented by Fifth Third Bank.
For 25 years Louisville theatre-goers like me have counted down to September when the infamous undead Count makes his visit to Main Street. We love the timeless tale, but we also trust the team at Actors to keep it fresh for us each time.
Originally written in 1897, this Bram Stoker story is one most people know well, and at first thought there is limited adaptation to be made while preserving the story, unless you’re Director Drew Fracher, determined to never stop raising the bar.
The updated opening sequence clued me quick that this show would be like none I’d seen in years past. When the lights fell on the final scene I looked to my friend, Katie, and said, “I’m not sure how it can get better than that.”
This year’s Dracula shed the skin of sexism and proved that the narrative is every bit as powerful, if not more, with extra skirts on stage, or pant suits as it were. The spooky ceiling shattered around us as these women took hold of legendary roles and elevated them into something fiercely female and still true to the spirit of the original character.
With Dr. Van Helsing (Rebecca Hirota) cast as a woman, and Lucy (Megan Massie) marching into the final battle in clothes fitting for combat, Actors Theatre makes a powerful statement: Generalized female fragility is a thing of the past, and they intend to leave it there.
Every cast member delivered commanding performances.
Local theatre icon and Kentucky Shakespeare veteran, Neill Robertson, wove laughs into even the most tense of moments with his unforgettable portrayal of Renfield, whose battle between the seduction and fear of darkness touched us all.
Professional Training Company member Mollie Murk embraced more than 2 gallons of blood sprayed on and about her as Mina, the first victim to fall to the Transylvania noble, whose death ignites the hunt for the ancient terror. She seemed quite fond of fangs, bringing a memorable and vivacious edge to a character who almost does not utter a word.
Brandon Meeks elevated the role of Dr. Seward both in action and emotion, drawing the audience into the energy of each fight and the shocking pain of his most desperate moments of grief. Born and raised in Louisville, Brandon’s talent takes him across the country to perform, but I hope to see him on hometown stages much more often.
Every performer earned a standing ovation, especially Santino Craven, who transformed into Dracula for the second year in a row. He captivated the audience with an air of alluring mystery and alarming confidence befitting the immortal villain, and left us desperate to defeat him, but also eager to know him more.
There will never be a year that I forgo the Dracula experience. It is an ever-innovative tradition setting our city’s theatre apart in the best possible ways.