Cincinnati Landmark Productions recently announced plans to focus its productions on the West Side’s Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, adding a new, smaller venue in the Incline District and foregoing the riverfront Showboat Majestic. For those who haven’t ventured west for theater, reconsider swiftly.
A “night at the theater” speaks to a certain liveliness and excitement, and the Covedale Center delivers. Built in 1947 as a grand post-war cinema, it has been renovated and spruced up to be both cozy and spacious.
Dracula is a fun and well-timed gothic offering for theatergoers of all ages. This is a three-act dramatization from 1927, reduced to two with one intermission. The first act suffers a bit from length and lack of tension, but the second makes up for it with verve.
The production takes cinematic liberties to the advantage of the play.
The lighting, stage design, costumes and original soundscape are gorgeous. At the opening, the library set is exquisitely lit so the blood-red liquor bottles, the red throw pillow on the settee, Lucy’s red scarf and the women’s white period costumes set a vibrant scene for what’s to come.
For the most part, the actors portraying the crazy, the evil and the undead have more to work with than their counterparts. Matthew Wilson’s unhinged Renfield is equal parts comedic and heart-wrenching; Caitlyn Maurmeier’s vampire Mina is so amped up that she literally takes flight across the stage in a terrific act-ending fight scene.
Clifford Nunley, a 2013 CCM grad, does a nice job of playing a decades-older Dracula and is well served by his height and regal bearing. Lucy (Cincinnati Shakespeare’s always watchable Miranda McGee), Van Helsing (Mike Sherman), Dr. Seward (Alan Harland), Harker (John Scheller) and The Maid (Elizabeth Chinn Molloy) round out the competent ensemble.
The heated sexual overtones of the vampire genre have been dialed back for general audiences, perhaps explaining the tension problem in the first act. The upside is that Covedale’s Dracula is family-friendly and approachable.
DRACULA, presented by Cincinnati Landmark Productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, continues through Nov. 10.