By Ben Johnson
The Somerville theatre scene has jumped on board with the vampire craze that is sweeping America today. Theatre@First, Somerville's largest community theatre organization, is performing "Dracula" this month as its annual winter production. The play, adapted by John Mattera from the original novel by Bram Stoker, is a faithful retelling of Stoker's famous vampire saga.
Directed by Theatre@First veteran Michael Babish, "Dracula" pays due homage to the gothic origins of the Dracula myth. The play is littered with innocent characters that have no idea that vampires move and live amongst them. Most of the characters don't even know what a vampire is. "Dracula is a story of horror, corruption, infection, and fear," writes director Babish in his director's notes. "It is a story that inspires countless interpretations, from Nosferatu to Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
Theatre@First's interpretation of "Dracula" takes much inspiration from its source material, Bram Stoker's novel. The production's costumes, designed by Cara Chiaramonte, resonate with the plays late 19th century and Anglican setting. The stage set is simple but effective, with beds and tables strewn about. Ominous, magically opening doors loom in the center of the stage, perfect for Dracula's dramatic entries.
Actor Ron Lacey portrays Dracula in the production with a remote coolness. Rather than using Bela Lugosi or Robert Pattinson as models for the fanged count, Lacey seems to be channeling Alan Rickman's Snape to exude his malevolent aura around the stage. This is Lacey's first performance with Theatre@First. He will next be appearing in Christopher Marlowe's "Edward II" at the Provincetown Theatre.
Other notable performances include Charles Hughes as the vampire slayer Professor Van Helsing, Jamianne Devlin as the possessed Miss Renfield, and Thomas Champion, as the wary Dr. Peter Seward.
The story of the play involves Dracula's attempt to turn young Lucy Westenra, played by Marty Seeger, and her friend Mina Murray, played by Kerri Babish, into his minions. Dracula believes Lucy to be the reincarnation of his long lost love and seeks to make her his bride. Slowly, Dracula infiltrates Lucy's life, first entering her dreams, and then her bedroom. Only the vampire savvy Van Helsing can explain what is going on with poor Lucy – why she has so little blood…
Theatre@First was founded in 2004. Based mostly around the work and support of volunteers, Theatre@First puts on a number of performances each year. Past productions have included "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," and "Much Ado About Nothing." Aside from shows, the organization also hosts readings and cabaret performances throughout the year.
Theatre@First prides itself as "affordable and eclectic entertainment." Their primary mission is "to provide a fun, friendly, and creative theatre experience for cast, crew, and audience alike."
"Dracula" will be performed throughout the month of February including Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th. The final weekend of performances will be February 25th through 27th. All shows begin at 8pm at the Elizabeth Peabody House, 277 Broadway Street. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students. "Dracula" is a fun, often humorous play that is suitable for the whole family.