Is it ironic to point out that 'Dracula' seems dated? I mean, the title character has been around for 500 years, we're told.
But Dracula's story, onstage at the University of Central Florida, seems a throwback to another time. Watching Bram Stoker's 1897 tale unfold in a 1924 play is like watching an old B-monster movie: Giggles are the result, not cries of fright.
UCF has pulled out all the stops on this production: The marvelously atmospheric set in a matter of moments can transform from a stuffy study to a creepy crypt; shadow effects let us see a giant bat circling its prey; audio effects give evil a chilling voice; fog machines whir, and special effects crackle and pop.
But even as all the tricks enliven proceedings, they can't overcome the sense of watching a cartoon.
Maybe it's because we all know how it's going to end that there isn't much menace to Luke Bernard's Count Dracula. Director Donald Seay has given him a lot of arch theatricality: hissing and posing and flouncing his cape. Like Norma Desmond, Drac seems ready for his close-up.
Dracula also sports a thick Transylvanian accent, and though he never purrs "I vant to suck your blood," you know he wants to.
In fact the whole cast offers up a melange of accents, from Dutch to upper-crust British to borderline Cockney, adding to the staginess of proceedings.
Kelly Kilgore creates the most full-bodied character as a feisty maid; Allan Gallant is brisk and businesslike as Dr. Van Helsing; and Chris Metz, sporting a frightful hairstyle, is a scene-stealer as a sanitarium patient who may not be as crazy as those around him think.
But the real stars are scenic designer Christian Cheker, lighting designer Bert Scott and sound designer Martin Wootton. The atmosphere they create shows that this old bloodsucker just might have some life left him yet.
Matthew J. Palm can be reached at 407-420-5038 or email@example.com.
See for yourself
•What: UCF Conservatory Theatre production of 'Dracula,' adapted by Hamilton Dean and John L. Balderston from the novel by Bram Stoker
•When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; through Oct. 31.
•Where: UCF Mainstage Theater, off University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail at the University of Central Florida
•Tickets: $19 adults, $17 seniors, $12 students