Yes, he’s back. Or is it a he? Or a they? And...wait, was Bram Stoker’s most famous invention really funny?
You will find out when you go to New World Stages, which began a run of “Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors” on September 9 for 18 weeks. The show, co-written by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen, is 90 minutes of a “gender-bending quick-change romp, with a pansexual Gen Z Count in the middle of an existential crisis.” What is most remarkable is that five performers play dozens of roles, including a vampire hunter, an insect connoisseur, and more. “The audience is watching remarkable actors doing all these silly illusions right in front of them,” says Greenberg. “Think Monty Python meets Mel Brooks.”
As for the “sexual” component, the co-writers point out that, as Greenberg explains, “Stoker was a queer man—not everyone knows that—and a big admirer (and then some) of Oscar Wilde. And Dracula essentially seduces everyone he meets.”
But they assure us this show is for all ages, from our young kids (“anything too suggestive will go over their heads”) to our mothers. As Rosen says, “you are watching resilient theatre actors making magic right in front of your eyes. And did I mention we also have puppets!”
One of those performers, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, says he was initially attracted to the project due to his love of the horror genre and mostly, by his admiration of Rosen and Greenberg: “I’ve respected them both for a very long time,” he says. Keenan-Bolger has had a successful stage career (following his sibling, Celia, who won the tony for “To Kill A Mockingbird”) but admits he’s never quite had a challenge like this. “I play seven or eight characters,” he says, “all in different hats. I think I use five different accents and a lot of mental gymnastics in one scene. Yes, it’s a marathon.”
As for their co-writing process, Rosen and Greenberg claim they sit in one room with one computer and agree on every word before hitting “send.” They each have other work: Greenberg, for example, directed a very long, highly successful production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” last year in Los Angeles. Seems far in theme from the current comedy of horrors, but as Greenberg points out, “hey, both shows are about people sucking other people’s blood.”
Worth reading is a novel by Joseph O’Connor called “Shadowplay,” which is about the time Bram Stoker was hired at the Lyceum Theater in England. Trust me, this is a page turner. Back in our city, the Dracula duo is not thinking past its current Off-Broadway run; they’re mostly just hoping to bring back some joy to the theatre-going experience. “We can’t wait to make people laugh again,” says Rosen. “They’ve been through so much sadness and anxiety over the last few years, and there may be more to come. But at least for 90 minutes, they can laugh through this pleasure trip and immersive experience.” They will laugh and maybe even scream a bit. Bram would be, dare I say, stoked?
“We can’t wait to make people laugh again. They’ve been through so much sadness and anxiety over the last few years, and there may be more to come. But at least for 90 minutes, they can laugh through this pleasure trip and immersive experience.” Steve Rosen, co-writer “Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors”