With one swift motion, Natalie Warren ’18 twisted out of the hold of Charlie Mayhew ’18, playing a threatening Count Dracula. Seizing the opportunity, Warren raised a crucifix above her head and violently thrusted her arms down to stab and kill Mayhew as a series of strobe lights flashed on and off to illuminate the suspenseful scene.
“I think [this scene is] fun just because it’s the biggest power move that I or any other character really has in the whole show…even though it’s so short lived, it’s the biggest action sequence in the show. This one is the most aggressive and exciting scene, I think, because [of] the tension building up to that moment where Dracula actually does get stabbed; the cast does a good job of building it… it’s really creepy and scary and you have no idea what’s going to happen,” said Warren.
This scene is part of this year’s annual spring play, “Dracula,” presented by the Andover Department of Theatre and Dance and directed by Kevin Heelan, Instructor in Theatre, and Allen Grimm, Instructor in Theatre and Dance. Based on the Gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker, the play follows the conflict between Mayhew, who plays an immortal vampire named Count Dracula, and his victims led by Henry Crater ’20, who plays a vampire hunter named Abraham Van Helsing.
“It’s the first show we’ve put on in a while that’s going to scare some of [the audience]. The way that Mr. Grimm and Mr. Heelan, they’ve done such a fantastic job, have taken the story and integrated it with the set that we have, [and how] they’ve told us how to portray certain things [will] probably be very interesting to the audience. I think a lot of people know the loose story of Dracula, it’s very popular, but… because there are so many adaptations and ways to tell the story, I think they’ll really be interested [in] this production,” said Jack Twomey ’17, who plays Dr. John Seward, the main doctor in the insane asylum which houses many of Dracula’s victims.
Although the play takes place in multiple settings, a bed remains onstage throughout the entire show. The set, expanding into the space normally occupied by seating, allows the audience to see the performance from up close. Actors exit the stage by walking off any side of the set or climbing through the top of the ramp towards the back, as well as through a trapdoor under the bed. The lanterns and gray, mesh curtains placed all around the set create an eerie lighting effect and serve as a prop for the actors.
“I’m a big fan of the curtains. We brought in a couple different samples of material, and we really settled in on this one. The gray color can really take whatever sort of color light we put on it. Mr. Murray, the lighting designer, can hit it with all kinds of different textures of light, all different colors of light, and it really takes to that. It almost looks like spiderwebs when it’s all lit up. And the actors do a great job of manipulating these and playing with these and moving them around throughout the show,” said Jacob Josef, Instructor in Theatre and Dance and the set designer.
In a tense scene, Harry Kahane ’20, dressed in a red and blue tweed blazer and playing the character Renfield, a patient in Dr. Seward’s insane asylum, crawled onto the stage and settled down near a long curtain, which he wrapped around his body. All of a sudden, he jumped up towards the audience and crawled around the perimeter of the stage, taunted by a case carried by Zari Cordova-Potter ’20, playing Ms. Taggert, a housekeeper in Dr. Seward’s insane asylum. In one abrupt motion, Cordova-Potter slammed the case onto the ground, throwing the lid open, as Kahane lunged forward, attacking and eating the dead chicken in the case. Kahane’s character, Renfield, is often the one who breaks the fourth wall throughout the performance with actions ranging from crawling around the viewers to taking a seat among the audience.
“I think [breaking the fourth wall] certainly makes it more fun for the audience, some type of interaction so that they are involved. It’s a live performance back and forth, [so] we’re interested in how the audience responds to our show and the best way to do that is to actively enlist a response from them, to really antagonize them,” said Kahane.
Directly after Kahane is bitten, Mayhew and Crater encounter each other for the first time. Pacing around the stage, Crater accuses Mayhew, who sits beside the bed and plays innocent, about the nature of his victims. As Crater becomes more anxious, he suddenly pulls out a cross and lunges toward Mayhew, who screams and falls down onto the ground. However, Mayhew’s life is spared as Twomey and Cordova-Potter leap onto the stage to restrain Crater.
“There’s so much hatred and backstory to what we’re saying, and it’s enjoyable to create that between us, create that history even though, in the play, that’s the first time the audience is seeing us interact…In their interactions, there has to be a kind of subtext in everything they say that references that history,” said Crater.
“Dracula” will be performed this Friday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in Tang Theatre. Tickets, which are 5 dollars, may be reserved through the box office in George Washington Hall.
Editor’s Note: Charlie Mayhew ’18 is an Eighth Page Editor for The Phillipian.