September 16, 2014
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Suave, even gallant Dracula on stage at CCRI

“Of monsters, famous or infamous,” wrote James Nelson in his 1970 preface to a new publication of Bram Stoker’s classic novel, “Cyclops, Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera, King Kong, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein’s monster – of them all, the one who reigns in enormity is Count Dracula.”

In the original stage version adapted from the Stoker novel by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, "Dracula" will be presented by the Community College of Rhode Island Players at the Knight Campus in Warwick on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. In addition, just before Halloween, there will be a special late-night performance on Friday, Oct. 28 beginning at 11 p.m.

Abraham “Bram” Stoker was born in Dublin in 1847 and, like his compatriot George Bernard Shaw, later became so prominent in England that most thought him English. He worked in various jobs early in his career but devoted most of his later life to serving as business manager for noted actor and producer Sir Henry Irving. Stoker remained with Sir Henry for 27 years and, on occasion, he stepped out of the box office to moonlight as stage manager or even actor when the need arose. He also found time to pen novels.

Published in 1897, "Dracula" – destined to become perhaps the most famous Gothic horror story of all time – was Stoker’s fifth novel. It was immediately recognized as a magnificent tale of horror, “one of the best things in the supernatural line” and “the very weirdest of weird tales.” Though the author published four more novels before his death in 1912, his immortality is due to a single literary creation, Dracula.

Years passed before the famed story was adapted for the stage by Hamilton Deane (1891-1958), son of one of Stoker’s childhood friends and an accomplished actor. His dramatization of Dracula had its London premiere on February 14, 1927, with uniformed nurses in attendance to administer to the fainthearted. The play ran for 391 performances and for more than three years in the provinces, often with Deane in the role of Van Helsing.

In Deane’s adaptation of the novel, Lucy Seward, whose father is the doctor in charge of an English sanitarium, has been attacked by some mysterious illness. Dr. Van Helsing, a specialist, believes that the girl is the victim of a vampire, a sort of ghost that goes about by night sucking blood from its victims. The vampire is at last found to be a certain Count Dracula, reimagined by Deane as a more urbane and theatrically acceptable character who could plausibly enter London society. As David Zinman observes in his book, "50 Classic Motion Pictures," “Unlike other monsters, Dracula is a man who walks among us. He is an aristocrat, a titled nobleman. He dresses impeccably and has the culture, good manners and good taste to play the gracious host to his victims. Where other monsters repelled their prey, Dracula’s suave, gallant air, his intense burning eyes, exerted a hypnotic charm.”

A commercial success of such proportions naturally attracted the eye of an American impresario, and in October 1927 the play was brought to New York by Horace Liveright, a colorfully egocentric publisher. During its transatlantic crossing, "Dracula" acquired a collaborator, John L. Balderston, an American journalist, playwright and screenwriter. At the time of its Broadway opening at the Fulton Theatre, the press described "Dracula" as “an evening rich in horror,” one that is “blithely blood-curdling” and had the “audience quaking delightedly.” "Dracula" also brought lifelong fame to Bela Lugosi, an erstwhile Hungarian romantic actor who created the role on Broadway and later in the 1931 film version. The play’s engagement lasted for 261 performances then took to the road, where it continued to chill audiences for several more years.

The CCRI Players production of "Dracula" is directed by Jeffrey A. Butterworth. The elaborate set design is by Luke Sutherland, with costume design by Brandy Lee Silva, lighting and sound design by Mick Jones, and technical direction by Robert Frank and Justin Carroll. The student cast includes Edward Warren of Warwick; Emily Mabrouk and James Gracik of Providence; Nick Viau of Cranston; Samantha Pike of Greene; Jeffrey Maynard of Johnston; Anthony Caraman of North Providence; and Brettny St. Peter of West Warwick. The stage manager is Jacob Crosslin of East Providence.

Reserved-seat tickets are $9 for the general public and $7 for students and senior citizens. Telephone reservations may be made by calling 825-2219 at any time or order via e-mail at ccriplayersclub@gmail.com.


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