The old time tale of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” has been told, twisted, chopped and reconfigured countless times, but what if the creepy classic picked up just where the original pursuits of the “Prince of Darkness” left off? Enter “Dr. Seward’s “Dracula,” which made its Chicago area debut Saturday night as part of the First Folio Theatre series at Mayslake Peabody Estate, a gargantuan castle of sorts that served as an ideal setting for this heart-pounding adaptation from Joseph Zettelmaier with direction by Jeff Award nominee Alison C. Vesely and production by David Rice.
The results are a riveting, tightly-packed ride expertly carried by a top-notch cast that’s destined to give “Dracula” enthusiasts something familiar yet entirely fresh to really sink their teeth into.
The common traits, clichés and caricatures often associated with the character instantly disappear in this incredibly serious examination of the complex Dr. Seward, who must help Inspector Carlysle (Craig Spidle) unravel the twisted trail of dead bodies with vicious teeth marks driven far into their necks. Christian Gray is utterly masterful in his portrayal of the deeply disturbed physician, who besides being a key witness (and possible suspect) in the crimes at hand is also being haunted by the ghost of Emily Covington (Elizabeth Stenholt), a victim and love of his life.
Though Seward was once the toast of the town, a trip the insane asylum following his controversial studies on the man who may have become the “Dracula” killer resulted in a vicious attack, nearly life-threatening chest injury and a subsequent addiction to morphine. But even though he’s hazy on the details and has an inconclusive set of journals surrounding the harrowing timeline, Seward is still sane enough to consult with the Stoker character (Joe Stearns), who frequently visits the recluse in hopes of further turning the true life terror into a fictional, monster-sized novel of escapism.
However, when the previously slain “Dracula” reemerges in a bizarre “undead” state as The Strange Man (Ted Kitterman), Seward nearly unravels beyond recognition and is faced with the moral dilemma of seeking revenge for a multitude of grievances or tapping into sound medical judgment to save someone who is genuinely sick. The results are a riveting, tightly-packed ride expertly carried by a top-notch cast that’s destined to give “Dracula” enthusiasts something familiar yet entirely fresh to really sink their teeth into.
“Dr. Seward’s Dracula” continues various dates and times at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook through November 6. For additional details, visit FirstFolio.org.