I left Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s production of "Count Dracula" baffled. Did I just see a comedy? A farce? Melodrama? A serious thriller?
Ted Tiller’s 1971 script was written in six days because a company could not get the rights to the "real" Dracula play (by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, based on Bram Stoker’s novel). At times, Tiller seems to want to spoof this tale about a vampire recruiting victims in a remote London town. But he’s not funny enough to be spoofy, and when he tries to be serious, he’s mechanical.
Ivers dives too deeply into Tiller’s split personality. He gives the production a confusing tone. Characters such as Sybil Seward (Barbara King), a likable middle-aged woman whom the script describes as "harmlessly touched in her head," are played with such exaggerated looniness that you assume there’s nothing about the evening we’re supposed to take seriously.
The character treated most unjustly by the director — Renfield (Mike Thatcher) — is reduced from an asylum patient who’s genuinely frightened about Dracula’s hold on him to a cartoon figure whose purpose seems to be nothing more than to provide slapstick humor.
The third act seems to want us to be in suspense about what’s going to happen next, but there are no surprises to keep us interested. And, curiously, the production doesn’t even provide much in the way of clever special effects.
Weirdest of all is the very young-looking Jordan Bondurant in the title role. It’s obvious Ivers was trying to go for a sensual, "Twilight" feel, but to do that, you need more youthful actors. Bondurant seems to be the only one onstage who hasn’t graduated high school. And he doesn’t yet have a star’s magnetism.
Donald C. Roose III’s marvelously detailed set creates a spooky, Gothic atmosphere. But it seems inappropriate for the sane man whose living quarters are being depicted.
The skill of the director and some of the cast prevent the show from being a total disaster. But I have no idea what Ivers wants the audience to take away from this production. There are so many different styles at work that nothing seems to belong.
What: "Count Dracula"
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Judy Bayley Theatre, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway
Tickets: $20-$30 (895-2787)