Walking Shadow Theatre Company presents Drakul, a riff on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Thinking about seeing the show? Check out these review excerpts to help inform your decision. Already seen the show? See if your review matches those of the local critics.
Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, was first published in 1897. Since that initial printing, this Victorian era work has proven the single most influential source of our modern vampire archetype. Mostly attributable to a vast array of cinematic adaptations, the ubiquitous vampire has achieved a kind of cultural immortality. Resurrected for each successive generation, Dracula has been depicted as both a sympathetic victim and the sheer essence of evil, representative of virtually every imaginable social taboo. After so many variations, it seems reasonable to ask if anything new can be contributed to such well-trodden mythology. The answer given by playwright/director John Heimbuch in his original work Drakul, now being presented by Walking Shadow Theatre Company at the Red Eye, ends up being decidedly mixed.
…The audaciousness of Heimbuch’s script resides in the playwright’s daring attempt to seamlessly blend original material with Stoker’s source novel, filling narrative gaps and imbuing further depth to each of the characters. Heimbuch pulls off the task with admirable precision, creating a text that works both as a reimagining and a sequel to Stoker’s tale. Adopting the novel’s epistolary device, in which the story is recounted through documents (letters, diary entries, certificates of death, etc.), Heimbuch intriguingly explores the psychology of these characters and the peculiar motivations that drive their actions.
…At a three hour run time, Drakul’s continually shifting focus does make sustained tension a challenging proposition. Patient audiences, however, will be rewarded with fascinating new dimensions in Heimbuch’s ambitious vision. For all Drakul’s narrative issues, Walking Shadow’s latest production finds a distinctly human drama at the center of an undead classic.
John Heimbuch likes to think big. The playwright and co-artistic director of Walking Shadow Theatre Company has merged zombies and Shakespeare, penguins and the military, and has also crafted an original vision of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. For his latest, Drakul, Heimbuch takes Bram Stoker’s Victorian horror story and expands it to look at the wreckage the events of the book leave behind for the characters. While the adaptation has its troubles, these intriguing explorations and the strong performances from the cast make it worth your time.
Heimbuch’s adaptation takes Stoker’s original novel and adds an intriguing conceit: What if the story was true? Part of the action follows the characters six years later, as their worlds are rocked by the publication of their journals and reports as a fiction. Their reputations in danger, the survivors gather to discuss what should be done and also uncover the remaining secrets within the group.
…The cast is well balanced, but sometime struggle with roles that haven’t been fully fleshed out. Considering the show runs a bit over three hours, this is especially frustrating. A lot of time is spent with the characters, but they are often just serving as pieces of the plot rather than rounded human beings.
And while much of the action is engrossing, the show drags during the second act in places where it should be racing to its conclusion, both in action (the hunt for the vampire) and emotion (the battle, past and present, for Mina’s soul). It doesn’t help that the play is made up of numerous short scenes. The resulting stage shifting is a continuous distraction that holds up the pace.
Dracula’s crypt is getting crowded. Myriad adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel have proposed sexy, creepy, funny, clumsy and ghastly incantations of the old haunt. So allow playwright John Heimbuch points for bravery in taking another crack. His “Drakul” premiered Friday in Walking Shadow’s production at Red Eye and you can add another adjective to the Dracula canon — though it’s probably not one Heimbuch was aiming for: wearying.
Heimbuch also directed the piece, which is good because he is one of the sharpest young minds in local theater. He understands actors and uses technical accents well. Walking Shadow typically displays articulate costumes (Amy Hill) and lights (Logan Jambik). Composer Tim Cameron’s soundscape becomes indispensable in shaping mood and place.
An excellent cast and a well-wrought opening sequence raise the anticipation that something grand is about to unfold. Three hours later, we are not so sanguine.
…It’s a worthy effort, but “Drakul” needs more pulse.
So have you seen Drakul? If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.