By Roy Keeler
On Sunday, October 11th, I had the pleasure of attending my third Village Productions play at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center in downtown Pottstown.
I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the Main Stage area and realized it has been totally reconfigured and everything is black. This time, the seats are in one large row, stadium style, and the stage area is much smaller than it was for Miracle on 34th Street and The Wiz. The set is appropriately Gothic. We were seated in the fourth row and center stage for optimum viewing.
After a quick introduction and some housekeeping items, Marta Kiesling relayed to us that the role of Dr. Seward was being filled by her husband Bill. The actor who was playing Dr. Seward was unable to continue in the role after Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal. Her husband stepped in the day before opening night and took over the role. Talk about saving the day! Without further delay, the production began.
The room was pitch black, there was some thunder, lightening, fog and music began to play (Camille Saint-Saëns: Dance Macabre) which was extremely appropriate! Great mood setter!
Act I takes place in the library of Dr. Seward’s sanatorium in England. This is the longest segment and a fifteen minute intermission takes place at the end of the act. Act II takes place in Lucy’s boudoir and is followed by a five minute “stretch”. Act III has two scenes: back in Dr. Seward’s library and in a crypt.
This production has a strong cast and I was impressed with the acting! There are some special effects, which are well done, but the high caliber acting by the cast draws you into the story. Elizabeth Hennessey and Scott Minor are back for another “Village Production” after appearing in Miracle on 34th Street. I became a fan of both actors after seeing them in Miracle on 34th Street and in this production of Dracula their acting skills are showcased even further. Scott has the role of R.M. Renfield, a bug eating lunatic in Dr. Seward’s sanatorium. Not exactly an easy role to pull off. Elizabeth is the female lead, Lucy Seward (Dr. Seward’s daughter) who becomes Count Dracula’s love interest/victim. Both Scott and Elizabeth delivered superb performances.
Michael Shoeman plays John Harker, Lucy Seward’s love interest. Michael delivers another strong performance as his character desperately struggles to save the woman he loves. You feel the intensity and raw emotion of Michael’s performance.
Paul Dake was cast as Abraham Van Helsing. Van Helsing is a strong character in need of a strong actor to due justice to the role. The pivotal role as Dracula’s nemesis was skillfully executed by Paul.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill Kiesling was thrust into the role of Dr. Seward on opening night. It is a performance using the script as there was no time to memorize hundreds of lines. However, the script in concealed in a book that he carries at all times. Personally, I was not bothered by it. Several of the people who were with me felt it was distracting, although they completely understood there was no other option. I think Bill does an amazing job with this role. It is a main character. The emotion and depth of feeling put into the role is excellent, especially considering he had 24 hours to ready himself. There was no awkwardness or missed cues that I noticed.
Diane Davis as Miss Wells (maid) and Eamon Goebel as Butterworth (butler) delivered wonderful performances. They added some comic relief which is necessary in a drama as intense as Dracula!
Last and certainly not least is Jerome Neville as Count Dracula. In my humble opinion Jerome rocks the house as Dracula! He has all the right moves, even down to the hissing when crosses, garlic, mirrors, Wolf’s-bane and the Blessed Sacrament are used against him. Think Bela Lugosi! The classic Dracula of my childhood; creepy, charming and everything in between! Great performance!
The play runs about 2 1/2 hours including the intermissions. Excellent costumes, sound, lighting, sets etc… It may be a little scary for small children but is otherwise great entertainment for all ages. The special effects are excellent and I thought the ending was “killer”. I give Dracula two fangs up!
Dracula runs through October 25th. Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information about tickets sales, performance times and dates visit their website at http://www.tripac.org. The Tri Country Performing Arts Center is located at 245 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464. They can also be reached by telephone at (610) 970-1199.