DRACULA (Hedgerow): Raising the stakes


John Lopes and Jennifer Summerfield in Dracula. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.
Catching vampires: John Lopes as Dr. Seward and Jennifer Summerfield as Professor Van Helsing in DRACULA. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Opening night’s full house fully enjoyed Hedgerow Theatre’s sensational DRACULA, finding no “blah, blah, blah” whatsosever in this theatrical thrill ride, as directed by Dan Hodge. Though based on the 1920’s adaptation by John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane of Bram Stoker’s infamous epistolary novel, this is not your usual resurrection of the Count’s timeless story of seducing young women to join him in the realm of the undead.

Hedgerow raises the stakes by introducing a female Van Helsing (Jennifer Summerfield)—a new twist on the concept of ‘femme fatale’, for she is beautiful and does indeed have a dead again plan to ensnare the spellbinding Count: By outsmarting him.  The gender variant also adds an intriguing dynamic between Professor Van Helsing and the Count (J. Hernandez), particularly when they first meet, and an increased sympathy regarding the other female characters. The Count, apparently having found a safe way from Transylvania to London in search of fresh blood, has infected the lovely daughter of Van Helsing’s dear friend Dr. Seward (John Lopes), and the Professor is called in to help.  It is up to her to convince the others and give courage to the chase, for there is only one cure…

A healthy dose of comedy and a few well applied drops of camp are provided to the production through the expressiveness of Meghan Winch, as the Maid, along with Josh Portera’s excellent comic timing as Mr. Butterworth and Mark Swift’s mad, maniacally laughing, well wrought Renfield. Juxtaposed with the serious and scary segments of the production, the humor creates an element of disarming surprise, accentuating the overall effect of each for a night of fun and fright.

Dracula, as portrayed by J. Hernandez, is charged with power and charisma.  He moves with style by stealth, hypnotic eyes glittering with evil, and that first tooth baring smile – eek!  Jennifer Summerfield’s detailed Van Helsing is intelligent, compelling and compassionate.  John Lopes as Dr. Seward is well paired in scenes with Harker as played by Ned Price, each bringing the other’s well developed character into the light, and Allison Bloechl takes her character Lucy fabulously from victim to vamp in flash.  Stage movement is slightly stylized, in a vein reminiscent of early era black and white film.

Sound (Dan Shields), music and lighting (Robin Stamey) play significant roles in the mood and dark magic of this piece.  The period set, (Zoran Kovcic), in terrific tones of gray, beige, browns and muted reds works well with light and shadow, has eerie exit and entrance spaces, plus a few other tricks and treats to check out. Costumes (Kayla Speedy) go perfectly with the set, lighting and lend overall authenticity to the time frame of the play.

For two hours, consisting of three Acts and two intermissions, Hedgerow’s unique DRACULA draws shivers and giggles this Halloween season. Don’t be afraid…

[Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley, PA] October 22-November 22, 2015; hedgerowtheatre.org.

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