REVIEW: Dracula

Giles Davies as Dracula in Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s 2017 production of ͞Dracula͟ by Steven Dietz, from the novel by Bram Stoker, playing October 13- November 4, 2017. Performances will be located at The Otto M. Budig Theater, 1195 Elm Street in OTR. Tickets are available online now at cincyshakes.com or by calling the box office 513.381.2273. By Mikki Schaffner Photography.

DRACULA is one scary fella.  It’s a legendary character, as seductive as he is frightening.  It’s a daunting task to take on one of horror’s greatest villains, I’m sure.  But Giles Davies, the actor who portrays him in Cincinnati Shakespeare’s new production – along with the fantastic cast and incredible team of technical support – is as fearless as he is fearsome.

Everyone who knows Giles loves him; and rightfully so. His natural charisma, his intense passion and zest for life, and unusual and unique personal style set him apart.  He has an inviting presence. Given that the famous vampire he plays cannot enter a home without an invitation, he’s exactly the right actor for the part!  But he’s also the right actor because of his impressive physicality.  Watch him in the middle of Act One glide across the stage, as if he were floating.  It’s a human magic trick, reminiscent of when he transformed before our eyes into the Elephant Man last year.  I find him infinitely watchable.

But an actor alone does a successful production make.  Director Brian Isaac Phillips has re-staged this audience favorite with Davies reprising his role.  Also back is Billy Chace as Renfield, our madman narrator, and Jim Hopkins as “Van Helsing.”  Crystian Wiltshire is “Jonathon Harker” and Kyle Brumley is “Dr. Seward.”  Miranda McGee plays “Lucy”and Caitlyn McWethy is “Mina.” Rounding out the ensemble are Cal Harris, Geoffrey Warren Barnes, Tess Talbot, Candice Handy, and Maggie Lou Rader.  The entire ensemble works tightly, efficiently, and work hard to keep this two-and-a-half hour play moving forward at all times.

The script by Stephen Dietz (who also wrote Ensemble Theatre’s THIS RANDOM WORLD, which opened on Wednesday) takes the Bram Stoker novel and makes it stage friendly, with lots of humor interspersed with sheer horror.  Phillips makes the most of his new toy, his brand new theater, and provides actual jump scares – something I’ve never seen accomplished so well – causing the audience to scream and shriek.  Literally.  The cinematic soundscape and effective use of light and projection all come together to make this the best horror experience I’ve ever seen on stage.

Yes, DRACULA is bloody. It’s gothically-sexual. And yes, it’s funny.  But most of all it’s a hellishly good time.

DRACULA runs through November 4th at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in their new home at 1195 Elm Street across from Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine.  Tickets are selling quickly and they have added a performance.  Do not delay. Click here for more information.