In Edmonds Driftwood Players production of Dracula, director Paul Fleming takes the audience on a journey of craven madness that is breathtaking in its realism.
In his notes, Fleming states, “As a metaphorical concept, the vampire can reflect our society’s concepts of sexuality, power, contemporary concerns, alienation, physical and emotional illness and ever foundation of evil. It can illuminate the essence of fantastic realities that we allow to overwhelm our known practical truths.”
The work, as adapted by Steven Dietz, effectively casts its spell over the audience, and the metronome of terror that Bram Stoker’s original work elicited hits its mark.
Act 1 opens on a distinguished gentleman, a devotee of Count Dracula named “Renfield” who is seated at a table, eating a fine meal. One dramatic floodlight exposes him (and the audience) to what is about to transpire. Across the stage is a bedroom set, cast in shadow.
Lighting Solutions NW owner Steve Cooper achieves lighting design that is mesmerizing. Moonlight floods the bedroom through windowpanes cast in light and shadow. A backdrop scrim reflects in blood-red, and later in the production, inky blue.
Set design is elegant – but bleak – intentionally so. This credit goes to scenic designer, Y. Michael Uyemura.
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Edmonds Driftwood Players at
Wade James Theatre
950 Main St.
Plays through Oct. 22
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Act 1, Scene 1: As Renfield (played by David Alan Morrison), pushes his food around his plate, he begins a measured dialogue with the audience, drawing them in. One leans forward, fascinated – there’s something not quite right about the fellow – but what? It is at this moment you are caught up in the director’s vision, his first-rate cast, and the meticulous skill of the crew.
In playing Renfield, Morrison pulls back the curtain on insanity and delusion to nerve-wracking heights. Unsettling laughter specters through the audience at first, then a sense of horror as his character plunges headlong into the dark well of an obsession he cannot have – that is, the reciprocation of his love and devotion to Dracula.
By the end of the first scene, Renfield is quite abruptly stripped of his evening coat and finery by asylum attendees and dragged off the stage screaming. Was the audience just subjected to reality, or an insane illusion?
As Renfield’s cries fade, the stage brightens cherrily on two ingénue confidantes (“Mina” and “Lucy”) flouncing on a cozy bed as one reads to the other a love letter she’s received from her betrothed. “Mina” is played impressively by Emily Milburn; engaged to solicitor “Jonathan Harker” (actor Jon Loina).
Hanna Destiny Lynn has been cast in the role of ill-fated “Lucy,” whose affections are sought by physician “Seward,” played by Nate Thomsen. Lynn’s obvious understanding of her role carries the play nicely and we look forward to Ms. Lynn expanding her repertoire in the Edmonds theatre scene.
Emily Milburn earns an enthusiastic welcome from Bellingham’s theatre scene where she was active in the Western Washington University theatre scene and with The Mt. Baker Theatre. Fittingly, she states that she is “delighted to be making her Seattle area debut in. . .this creepy, dark story of Dracula.” (That’s the spirit, Emily!)
The role of Dracula, with its chilling dialogue, goes to actor Asa Sholdez who rises out of his coffin in the final moments of the production with a warning to Driftwood Players’ audiences. Brace yourselves, Edmonds!
On many occasions My Edmonds News has drawn attention to Sholdez’ acting talents. The veteran actor most recently performed in Man Defeats Nature with the Driftwood Players troupe; and in Rumors at The Phoenix Theatre. However, devoted audiences would have seen him in many other productions including Baldpate, The Best Laid Plans; and in 2015 in The Little Journey in which he portrayed the character “Jim West” winning the My Edmonds News “Tony” award.
“Van Helsing”, the wizened and cynical physician called upon to unravel the mystery of the Count’s ignoble past and future ambitions is played by Phillip Keiman. The weight of the production falls here; along with the responsibility of delivering the plays’ epilogue including the now famous line, “One should rather die than be betrayed. . .”
Keiman will next be seen in Seattle Immersive Theatre’s holiday production, The Woman in Black. Keiman can also be seen in Amazon’s The Scottish Play, a televised production about a theatre company’s attempt to stage Shakespeare’s most cursed play, Macbeth.
In playing “Harker” Jon Loina returns to the Driftwood Players’ boards on which we last saw him in Unexpected Guest. Loina puts in such an earnest performance that Artfully Edmonds puts a thumbs up on Seattle area directors casting their next plays. His tenderness toward his betrothed “Mina” and his struggle to overcome the powers of the Count were impressively portrayed.
Nate Thomsen, playing “Dr. John Seward” (romantically rebuffed by “Lucy”) has been seen in Driftwood productions Beauty and The Beast, and Sweeney Todd. He says of this role that he’s “happy to finally be playing [a role in which the character has] proper training, after impressively playing Monsieur D’Arques and Mr. Fog, respectively.
There’s no question as to the skill level of any of the remarkable actors in this production, and that goes equally well for supporting roles in which Grace Madland and Rebecca Erickson played multiple roles (“Brava” to the vixens!). Asylum attendants were played chillingly by Bostonian, Joshua H. Behn and Eric Fowler, who in this production moves forward from this backstage achievements.
Shout outs also go to the in-production stage crew/gypsies; shadowy figures moving fluidly to and fro. Their foreboding moves across stage, silhouetted against the dramatic colors of the scrim were the perfect touch to an exquisite production.
Artfully Edmonds cannot give this production higher praise. Congratulations go out to TIPs producer, Diane Jameison; board operators Jessica Gable and Eugene Seubert; and the construction crew.
You won’t want to miss this impressive production! Tickets are available by calling 425-774-9600 or ordering through the theatre’s online box office.