Onstage: Dracula at Cincinnati Shakespeare

Abraham Van Helsing insists all men are madmen. This theory might help explain why, as hard as he works to kill Count Dracula — garlic, crucifixes, the nasty business of turning the Nosferatu torso into a Transylvanian shish kabob — theatre artists work

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Abraham Van Helsing insists all men are madmen. This theory might help explain why, as hard as he works to kill Count Dracula — garlic, crucifixes, the nasty business of turning the Nosferatu torso into a Transylvanian shish kabob — theatre artists work even harder, October after October, to bring the vampire back to life. It’s an insane exercise. Bram Stoker’s epistolary 1897 novel resists dramatization almost as strenuously as the undead might resist a dunking in holy water. However high the adapters’ intentions, Dracula, on stage or film, almost always stumbles into an open grave of sleaze and camp.

Yet here we are again. A remote estate in Eastern Europe. An asylum in London. The late Victorian era, with all its attending sexual politics, spiritual superstition and shaky medical practices. Will Van Helsing and his callow deputies decipher the lunatic Renfield’s clues before it’s too late? Of course not. Will there be blood? Let’s just say, if you’re seated in the first few rows, wear something dark and machine-washable.

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