There's blood in "Dracula" yet, but the current touring version is flying on only one wing.
It touched down at Royce Hall, UCLA, Tuesday night on its way to San Jose and points north. Its model is the classic 1977 Broadway revival. Again the prim, spidery sets by Edward Gorey, the scratchy 1930s sound-track music, the deadpan direction by Dennis Rosa.
Rosa knows that the way to deal with "Dracula" today is to let the audience know immediately that it's all a joke, of course. Once that's established, everyone can settle down to being scared.
But you need the right Dracula.
On Broadway Frank Langella made him a Byronic aristocrat with soulful eyes--one who understood the griefs of young women, having suffered much sorrow himself. One saw what drew the girls.
Martin Landau at UCLA suggested a friend of your father's who drops by on the way to a fancy dress ball with some papers for him to sign--something about title insurance. When he twirled his cape, it was a stunt, not a beat of dark wings. He snapped well, when he revealed his true mission, but there was no fascination before that. Dracula needn't be romantic (Bela Lugosi certainly wasn't), but he can't be ordinary.
The supporting cast was not too dreadful. Indeed, two performers were rather good. Mary Dierson as Lucy started out too campily, even within Rosa's scheme, but found some impressive moments when Lucy's dark angel and bright angel vied for her soul in the last act.
And Humbert Allen Astredo helped us believe, as Lucy's savior, Dr. Van Helsing. Even when we laughed, we knew that the excessiveness came from Van Helsing's frustration at dealing with the powers of darkness, not from Astredo's need to get a laugh.
Astredo was hard to understand, though, as were several others in the cast. And the sound system was dreadful, with all sorts of rips and pops.
When is UCLA going to put Royce Hall in proper shape for theater?