Home Arts-Entertainment Things to do PISTARCKLE'S LIVE DRACULA IS A GOOD SHOW



If you had dialed Transylvania 6-5000 Thursday night, you would have come up with "Dracula," whirling around the Pistarkle Theater production at Coral World. This is one blood drive not sponsored by the Red Cross.
The company's pre-opening night performance played to a full house. Pistarkle's first night traditionally is "pay what you can" as far as admission. Friday is the official opening night with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres; and on Sunday, which happens to be Halloween, playgoers are invited to come in costume to compete for prizes.
This version of the classic Bram Stoker story (which is not for young children, by the way) has been adapted for the stage by Crane Johnson. It is set in Victorian England. The Coral World venue is very small, which presents a very big challenge to the technical staff, but director Trudy Tucker and her able aides have done an incredible job of re-creating a period drawing room with flawless sound and lighting effects.
So, on to the play. It's difficult to say which of the cast is most entertaining, but we'll start off with newcomer Gregory Fowler. He's new to St. Thomas, too, and his experience has been limited to coffee shops and fast food joints, according to his playbill bio. That was apparently adequate background to portray the insect- and bird-eating Renfield, Dr. Seward's protégé and in-house experiment. He humps about the stage in various stages of mental decline extolling the virtues of "eating life to maintain life." A novel attitude.
Amy Huentelman plays Lucy, Dr. Seward's fiancée, who is seduced and/or killed by Count Dracula, depending on how you look at it. The sequence of events can be confusing as she becomes one of the "undead," and her part is limited owing to her character's tenuous hold on mortality.
Dee Warren is properly prim as Lucy's aunt, a little fey and very amusing. Her decorum deconstructs, however, when she falls victim the bloodthirsty Count.
It wouldn't do to say Christina Harper steals the show, but her histrionics as the metaphysical doctor, Professor Van Helsing, are compelling. Harper is a Pistarkle veteran, and it shows.
Michael Burton, press secretary to Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II, distinguishes himself after six years away from the stage as the hapless Dr. Seward, who is a bit confused throughout the drama. However, with the steady, always boisterous guidance of Professor Van Helsing, he makes it though like a champ, right through the dramatic final scene.
And then there's Abigail, Seward's maid, who is very British and more than a little dotty, albeit helpful as can be. Dena Benson Elliott is simply wonderful in the role.
Now about the Count, played by Gene ("Gino") Skoff (whofor some reason is omitted from the cast bios in the playbill. Although his is the lead role, he doesn't appear that much on stage – he is more an omnipotent off-stage presence, and perhaps that's a good thing, as in his brief appearances he whirls about as frantically as a dervish in his magnificent black and red satin cape (perhaps awaiting an off-stage bull?). At one point I feared he'would suffer whiplash.
The production continues Pistarckle's series of diverse theatrical delights. Coral World's outdoor amphitheater is the perfect setting for the wolf howling in the background under the waning moon and stars. But there is nothing else waning about this production, which also runs next Friday and Saturday, Nov. 5 and 6. Tickets are $22. Call 775-7877 for reservations.


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