Dracula's crypt is getting crowded. Myriad adaptations of Bram Stoker's novel have proposed sexy, creepy, funny, clumsy and ghastly incantations of the old haunt. So allow playwright John Heimbuch points for bravery in taking another crack. His "Drakul" premiered Friday in Walking Shadow's production at Red Eye and you can add another adjective to the Dracula canon -- though it's probably not one Heimbuch was aiming for: wearying.
Heimbuch also directed the piece, which is good because he is one of the sharpest young minds in local theater. He understands actors and uses technical accents well. Walking Shadow typically displays articulate costumes (Amy Hill) and lights (Logan Jambik). Composer Tim Cameron's soundscape becomes indispensable in shaping mood and place.
An excellent cast and a well-wrought opening sequence raise the anticipation that something grand is about to unfold. Three hours later, we are not so sanguine.
"Drakul" spins on the axes of desire and secrets. Heimbuch focuses on Mina, the plucky London working girl delighted with her betrothed, Jonathan Harker, but helplessly seduced by the mysterious Transylvanian count. Whirling around this core, a literary double cross feels more device than essential. The usual Dracula chase across Europe fills out the story.
Heimbuch's script falters in two interlocking ways, though he might have helped himself as director. First, an adaptation must carve through Stoker's endless exposition -- ruthlessly shaking away details. Secondly, scenes of high passion need to breathe. Charles Hubbell's Drakul assaults Joanna Harmon's Lucy so quickly that we never feel her terror/desire. When Harker visits Drakul's castle, the old man goes on like an annoying bore rather than a menace.
Dracula is, at its evil heart, an invitation to shock -- sharply evident in Lucy's undead appearance, the blood exchange between the count and Mina, and when Drakul's brides assault Harker. These crackling scenes transcend all the dialogue in the world, even if it is marvelously written. Too, the staging is somehow restrained, afraid of its stated theme of desire.
Hubbell's Drakul comes off a continental gentleman rather than an enigmatic and dangerous man of mystery. Melissa Anne Murphy shows off Mina's good heart and sense of duty. Ian Miller is a most appealing Harker, and Sam Landman turns in great, idiosyncratic performance as the insane Renfield. Alan Sorenson is a fine Van Helsing.
It's a worthy effort, but "Drakul" needs more pulse.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299