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Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors (A Theater Review)

Updated: Nov 9, 2023


Starring Jordan Boatman, Arnie Burton, James Daly, Ellen Harvey and Andrew Keenan-Bolger.

Written by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen.

Directed by Gordon Greenberg.

Playing at New World Stages – Stage 5 – 340 West 50th Street – New York. Run: Through January 7th, 2024.

A New Live Production, Dracula, A Comedy of Terrors, Reveals A High Camp Side to this Story of The Undead Count

One thing you can count on every Halloween is an appearance of Dracula or, at least, some form of a vampire added to the mix. That could mean a re-run of the many classic films with the undead count such as Universal’s original version of Dracula (with Bela Lugosi) or Hammer’s The Horror of Dracula (with Christopher Lee). But this scary season doesn't necessarily require an appearance of the original bloodsucker himself. It could include some resurrection of his character in a movie, play or live visual presentation in some haunted house.

In 1897, when Irish author Bram Stoker published his long-wrought novel Dracula for just six shillings, he didn’t realize that he’d created one of the most iconic figures of all time. Though this story of an aristocratic, undead mastermind was popular in its day, little did Stoker know that his blood-drinking, soulless monster of the night would become the source of countless permutations, reinterpretations, and re-examinations of this creature and its implications. There’s even a Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin which celebrates the Gothic, the supernatural, the after-dark and Victorian as well as the Count himself.

Of course, along with Stoker’s horror classic, the inevitable humorous satires, parodies, and various send ups cropped up. From a tale of the ageless Count needing to leave his ancient homeland to resettle in England to tap fresh blood, the original gothic narrative has often been revised with sometimes hilarious results.

Now, through Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors, this battle with the master of the undead receives an outlandish rethink. Enabled by a compact, five-person cast – Jordan Boatman, Arnie Burton, James Daly, Ellen Harvey, and Andrew Keenan-Bolger – this rapid-fire comedic reimagining of this archetypal tale garners guffaws and lots of snickering.

Taking off from the original’s classic characters, they’re transformed into these versions: sweet Lucy Westfeldt, vampire hunter Jean Van Helsing, insect consumer Percy Renfield, and behavioral psychiatrist Wallace Westfeldt, among others. Here they find themselves in a faux British country estate which doubles as a free-range mental asylum. With its cast of slapstick, quick change comics who switch roles with the aplomb of fast handed pickpockets, this Dracula not only makes you scream, but it does it with laughter. The show also exposes a fundamental ridiculousness that illustrates just how resilient the original concept is: it can take jabs even at its core of terror and still retain a certain majestic-ness.

Through its compact 90-minute show, elements of goth, camp, and variant sexuality are thrown into a gender-bending, quick-change romp. With all the wacky characters, a pansexual Gen-Z Count Dracula tops the list of existentially challenged characters.

As a buddy of notorious gay Victorian author Oscar Wilde, the actual Stoker was believed to be a closeted gay man in a repressive England, so his novel was rife with suggestive sexuality and gender reversals. Director/co-writers Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen’s send-up of this novel is meant to be viewed through a very contemporary lens.

Just as the book transcended other Gothic horror of its day, this comedy rises above being simple holiday fare. Make your way to the Westside’s New World Stages for a comedic jab at the jugular.

Brad Balfour

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: November 8, 2023.

Artwork © 2023. Courtesy of New World Stages. All rights reserved.

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