With Halloween fast approaching, a new revival of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio drama “Dracula” aims to remind audiences that the ghastly appeal of Count Dracula’s story — much like the soul of the elegant undead Transylvanian nobleman himself — is eternal.
“Dracula” debuted as the first production by Welles’ company “The Mercury Theatre on the Air.” While the show didn’t have exactly the same panic-inducing impact that “The War of the Worlds” generated a few months later, Welles’ adaptation of Bram Stoker’s horror classic incited plenty of thrills and chills.
In this stage production of the radio play, presented by Broken Habit Productions and running Oct. 22-30 at the Theatre at St. Claude, director Jim Fitzmorris says he’ll avoid the usual clichés of campy, old-time radio drama and go straight for the jugular.
“We’re going scary,” said Fitzmorris. “It’s really dark and driving. It’s a pervading sense of gloom.”
“Dracula” is narrated by Dr. John Seward, a 19th-century physician who pieces together a series of mysterious deaths. When Seward and mentor Dr. Abraham Van Helsing uncover the secrets of Count Dracula, a real-life bloodsucker, they spring into action to save Mina, one of Seward’s patients, from the vampire’s clutches.
“It’s a lickety-split pace,” said Fitzmorris. “Welles’ ability to cut right to the chase — and I mean that literally, where they’re actually tracking and chasing Dracula at the end — is spectacular and fun.”
The hourlong show features a simple set, with the actors (Kimberly Kaye, Joel Derby, Matthew Mickal and Lin Gathright) at music stands. A spooktacular soundscape and light design, overseen by Mike Harkins, amplifies the tension.
“I don’t know what it is about human beings,” said Fitzmorris, “but for some reason, one of our happiest moments is sitting in the dark and having somebody scare the hell out of us when we know it’s not real.”