A Song Cycle for Midnight - a zine about the dark arts


Dracula - Collision Theater Company, Chicago, IL

by Lithopedian

A theatrical adaptation of Bram Stoker's vampire epic can only be ridiculous, whether the playwright and director mean it to be or not. Happily, Collision Theater Company's production of Mac Wellman's adaptation is a boldly dark, sexually charged caricature of Stoker's gothic romance.

The show begins with the cast crowded around a ladder, which becomes an important prop and set piece throughout the play. Three ghastly painted vampresses with electric green and orange hair stare coldly into the audience as Mina, Lucy, Dr. Seward and his lackey, Van Helsing and Johnathan Harker are petrified with fear at the recounting of Lucy's encounter with a horrific monster. We see the monster (Desmond Borges in a grotesque Halloween Mask) seduce Lucy (Erica Peregrine) and drink blood from her throat as they both display mock-orgasmic pleasure. After the episode, Lucy begins to sing about the "Land beyond the forest." The chorus joins in, accompanied by goth-rock cabaret piano, and we see Dracula for the first time as a man (who oddly resembles Andrew Dice Clay) in a black vinyl trench coat and sunglasses.

It is all very bizarre, mesmerizing and is filled with moments of brilliance. The acting in the play is of the sort that is often shunned in more somber circles of theater. It is melodramatic and self-depricating, like a very good B movie. The music is sparse, and is often played by the actors on cello and violin. Songs are interspersed throughout the play and are haunting lounge ballads, such as "The Devil has Beautiful Skin". The costumes are remeniscent of the outfits of David Bowie and Christian Death. The stage is outfitted with curtains made of black trash bags and Halloween spider webs, and lit with reds, yellows and blues used in monochromatic floods for a look that conjures up the jarring powers of German expressionist films like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari".

"Dracula", as presented here, becomes less about the story that we know from the novel and the countless cinematic renditions of that book. It is about the vampire as the pinnacle of fear and desire. "Dracula" contemplates and exhalts those two things that make the vampire horror genre so incredible. They are things which so much "great" literature basely ignores in human nature, our natural passions. Only horror dares to delve into these matters, and it is only the vampire that is the divine manifestation of sex and death. Collision's production of "Dracula" is aware of this and they wave it in the audience's face until that last truly dreadful moment when the house lights come back on and the world returns to the ordinary remains of humanity after the brain built up walls around it's own uncontrollable humors.