A Fangless “Dracula” in Spring Lake

Shhh…be quiet for a second…hear that creaking sound? It’s not the lid of Dracula’s coffin; it’s the text of his play, Dracula, suffering from the infirmities of old age. The 1927 play is on life support through this weekend at Spring Lake Community Theatre Company.

The play is a straightforward presentation of the Dracula legend, in which the 500-year old Transylvanian Count, who sleeps in a coffin by day and who, um, necks with young lovelies at night, is finally put out of his misery – and ours – with a stake through his heart.

Love at first leer: Neck-biter and bitee in Spring Lake's "Dracula"

Compared to some recent vampire/zombie “entertainment,” the play isn’t really scary, and because who-did-what-to-whom is revealed in the first 15 minutes, it doesn’t hold up as a mystery either.

So the thing is, if Dracula isn’t played for laughs, it doesn’t play at all. Unfortunately, no one in the Spring Lake Community House last Friday night seemed to realize that. That includes most of the people on stage as well as the audience. (Three laughs in 100 minutes? It’s not just me.)

A father and a fiancé of a young woman who is having her blood sucked out regularly via two gaping holes in her throat being played without a trace of irony or satire makes as little sense as playing an exposition-spouting German scholar-of-the-undead without an accent. And not imbuing the blood-suckee with exaggerated fragility may just be a function of the three-generation span between the Spring Lake actress and the young Lillian Gish.

There’s a resident loony on the premises who reportedly eats flies and spiders and insects (oh, my!), although not in this production. There’s also his keeper, who can’t keep track of his only charge, and a maid whose hypnotic trance begs to be parlayed into a metaphor (too easy).

Then there’s Count Dracula, the only character that evokes a chuckle. Good old Drac, over-acted (a compliment) by Eric McDonough, whose resemblance to Bela Lugosi is eerie in itself, is the only one that director Tim Walling seems to realize is a caricature. But, guys, they all are. Or should be.

8pm on Fri & Sat, Oct 28 & 29, at Spring Lake Community House. Tickets ($28, with student/senior discounts): 732-449-4530 or online at www.springlaketheatre.com

(Any Dracula that doesn’t include the line “I don’t drink [pause] wine” or any sort of a bat should be against the law.)

Blog, Community, Regional
  • Nick Foster

    Isn’t the point of community theater to give local actors and theater – goers the chance to have some fun? I always wonder why that is not kept in mind when people write reviews of community theater. I don’t doubt that some of your points are valid. But wouldn’t something along the lines of “Spring Lake brings this classic tale to life just in time for Halloween….”be more constructive? It seems to me that this would be a little more supportive of community theater and local theater in general and encourage more people to see live theater, thus making it possible for live theater to exist…..and for grumpy theater reviewers to have something to continue to review. Just saying…..

    • Philip

      Thanks for your interest in my “Dracula” review, Nick. And yes, “…brings this classic to life…” might be more constructive. However, it isn’t and they didn’t.
      I am supportive of community theater, an assertion occasionally disputed in reactions to specific reviews, as you’ve done here. What cannot be disputed, though, is that I voice honest appraisals of community theater productions.
      It’s not my job to whitewash shows. In fact, without negative comments, positive comments are meaningless. My opinion of Spring Lake’s “Dracula” (for which the admission charge is $28, btw) holds in every particular.
      For contrast, I call your attention to reviews of Spring Lake’s “Sylvia” from 2009 and “The Secret Garden” from 2010, both admirable productions. (Both reviews available on my website by plugging the titles into the search bar at top right.) You’ll see that I’m not always grumpy.
      “Dracula” director Tim Walling directed “Secret Garden,” too. “Sylvia” was directed by Alan Foster, another long-time Spring Lake veteran. And a relative of yours, Mr. Foster?

  • Mer

    How terribly insulting to the actors and production staff that worked hard to produce this production that has pleased all the patrons who have come to see it. Patrons who PAY for their tickets and donate to support community theatre and its continuation. My guess is you did not pay for your ticket, nor did you give a donation. Remember that without local theatre for you to critique your so called blog would serve little purpose. Perhaps someone who actually enjoys attending quality productions like those produced at the Spring Lake Theatre, would be better suited to blog about it. Just saying…