Dracula, as most of us who enjoy being creeped out are well aware, is one of the undead, drawing his vitality from mortals whom he drains of their blood and their independent spirits � He never really goes away; he simply disappears for a while then comes back for more victims. He had a good run at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in 1995 and, true to form, he's haunting the place again in another production directed by Stephen Hollis, who staged the show 12 years ago and made DRACULA into one of the Playhouse's all-time most popular productions.
For his script, Hollis has gone back to the source, an adaptation by Hamilton Deane of Bram Stoker's original novel. That script had its world premiere at the Little Theatre in London in 1927. It opened the same year on Broadway with a script further revised by John L. Balderston. It was so effective that people fainted in the aisles; in fact, nurses were kept on hand to tend to those who were overcome by fear. The New York production made a star of a little-known Hungarian actor named Bela Lugosi. (If you don't know who he is, you might recognize him as the inspiration for the Muppet known as "The Count.")
Hollis' Playhouse's 1995 production was highly theatrical -- full of melodrama, adventure, suspense and spectacular special effects, not to mention some biting humor -- and that's likely to hold true again. The Playhouse, however, promises that the effects won't be simple repeats of what scared audiences back in the 1990s. In fact, given advances in stage technology, it's likely that this Dracula will be even more amazing and fear-inducing than its predecessor.
It's worth noting that Dracula's production team includes Cincinnati Entertainment Award Hall of Famer Paul Shortt as the scenic designer and multiple CEA winner Drew Fracher as fight choreographer.
Come this Sunday afternoon and linger after the performance for a "meet the artists" session: You'll hear comments from actors playing Dracula (Kurt Rhoads), Dr. Seward (Patrick Husted), the virginal Lucy (Julia Coffey) and the lunatic Renfield (Scott Schaefer), among others. No need to bring garlic, however: The Playhouse assures us safety precautions have been taken. 513-421-3888. (See Onstage.) -- RICK PENDER
While fans worry and wonder about whether Kevin Shields will ever put out another My Bloody Valentine record, there is another Modern Psych Rock pioneer from the same era who has been much more generous with his output. With Spacemen 3, Sonic Boom (born Pete Kember) was a member of a band that created a subtle but strong riptide of influence that has led many to call it one of the more significant bands of its time. With Psych Rock coming back gradually, it's hard to imagine most of today's practitioners even existing without Kember and Co.'s seminal albums like The Perfect Prescription and Sound of Confusion. When SM3 ended with the beginning of the '90s, Kember didn't try to go BritPop and cash in; he simply kept doing what he was doing, further exploring the range of sonic art under various guises. The most straightforward of those projects was formed right after SM3 split -- SPECTRUM does contain some dreamy Pop elements, but it has never lost its inherent experimentalism. Kember has kept Spectrum alive all these years and currently he is on a tour of the States, spreading the good, trippy word before the release of the band's new album, titled On the Wings of Mercury, due by the end of the year.
Whatever he calls the project, anything coming from the mind of Sonic Boom is sure to be provocative, challenging and more psychedelic than the ghost of Timothy Leary jamming with 13th Floor Elevators where the pyramid meets the eye. The band plays with Dayton's amazing Lap Partners Thursday at the Southgate House. 859-431-2201. (See Music.) -- MIKE BREEN
THURSDAY 05 -- SUNDAY 09
While not a political comedian like Lewis Black or Lizz Winstead, COSTAKI ECONOMOPOULOS enjoys telling a good joke about the administration. "It's actually been kind of nice lately, (now) that Bush is kind of back on the list of things you can make fun of," he says. Economopoulos holds a Master's degree in political science, a subject in which he remains well-versed. "There was stretch there a couple years ago," he says, "where you could do some Bush jokes, but man it would really cost you some 'comedy capital.' " Fortunately he has a pretty diverse set which contains everything from silly one-liners to more socially relevant topics. An example of silliness? "I was cruising around the other day and I saw a sign at a Hyundai dealer that said, 'No Interest,' and it was funny because that's just what I was thinking." Economopoulos can also be heard Wednesday mornings on The Bob & Tom Radio Show, where he delivers his popular "Econo-monologue." Economopoulos performs Thursday-Sunday at Go Bananas in Montgomery. $7-$12. 513-984-9288. (See Onstage.) -- P.F. WILSON
As part of the First Friday Gallery hop in Covington this week, THE NORDHEIM GALLERY opens a new exhibition, A Terrain -- The Tempest and Repose. The show features work by two unconventional Kentucky-based artists, Kurt Nicaise and Jeff Schilling. Nicaise's drawings and paintings have been in both modest and large exhibitions -- from The Nordheim Gallery to The Carnegie Center for Creative and Performing Arts. Schilling is less well known in galleries, but perhaps more recognizable as a Fort Mitchell personality, carving his sticks and stones on his front porch for the past 30 years (weather permitting). Indeed, people know him as "The Front Porch Guy," and the gallery is using the moniker as a staying point. Nicaise and Schilling both take cues from the Northern Kentucky landscape: Nicaise's environmental elements are interpretive, while Schilling's are literal, using natural objects as his medium. Opening reception: 6-9 p.m. Friday. 859-292-3960. (See Art.) -- LAURA JAMES
THE CARNEGIE VISUAL AND PERFORMING ART CENTER´S Installations and Performances exhibitions are always worth seeing. Since its renovation, the building is spectacular. This exhibition is an opportunity for artists with all kinds of disciplinary backgrounds to incorporate time and space as elements of the art works they create. Expect a collision. Some artists who work largely with "installation art" (such as Robert McConaughy) can wow audiences with their attention to the visual, psychological and logistical aspects of a viewer's movement through an art-altered space. But other artists who usually work in more traditional media use their place in this show as an opportunity to experiment on a larger scale: ambitiously, awkwardly or both. Also, look out for the work of out-of-towner Kristina Arnold, whose stringy-biological-meets decorative-domestic installations are prone to intrigue and delight. Opening reception: 6-9 p.m. Friday. 859-491-2030. (See Art and Events.) -- MATT MORRIS
FRIDAY 07 -- SUNDAY 09
How do you bring to life a play that everyone knows? How do you become a character whose very name has stereotypical expectations? Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's Chris Guthrie says it's intimidating to play Romeo -- which he'll be doing starting for the next month starting on Friday evening with the season-opening production of ROMEO AND JULIET. "Romeo is perhaps one of the most performed characters in the English language," he says. "His name has worked its way into our everyday language to describe a great lover. Overcoming what audiences think they know about him, and even what I think I might know about him, is a challenge." Guthrie, who began his local theatrical career back in 2000, played Hamlet for Know Theatre last season (earning a Cincinnati Entertainment Award nomination for his efforts), so he knows his way around tough parts. It's likely he'll bring some exciting insights to Juliet's beau. See for yourself at CSC's Race Street theater. 513-381-2283. (See Onstage.) -- RICK PENDER
SATURDAY 08 -- SUNDAY 09
The food, the music and the dancing will all be caliente this weekend at the 14th annual SU CASA HISPANIC FEST. Latin America is a colorful pastiche of unique cultures and traditions, each of which has a place at the festival. A favorite feature each year is the crowning of La Reina, or queen, chosen from among young women who help raise funds for community outreach. Staffed by volunteers, the festival benefits Su Casa Hispanic Center, which offers educational and cultural programs, emergency assistance, employment referrals and other services to the region's growing Latino community. Noon-11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds on Vine Street in Carthage. Admission is free, but parking costs $5. www.cincinnatihispanicfest.org. (See Events.) -- GREGORY FLANNERY
"Plays and plants" could be the theme for SECOND SUNDAY ON MAIN. Play Around and Eco-Main-ia offer an interesting mix of activities for the last blast of 2007. The League of Cincinnati Theaters and Cinstges.com offer free excerpts from upcoming plays including A Sleeping Country and As White as O, in addition to some behind-the-scenes stuff like learning to throw a stage punch and the tricks of the trade that went into set designs for Playhouse in the Park's production of Dracula. After attending InkTank's talk with Joseph McDonough about how to write a play, mosey on over to the mayor's Young Professional's Kitchen Cabinet to learn about "recycling, biking and other ways to help the environment." The first 200 people to attend will receive a free canvas shopping bag from Kroger and free nightlights (which use 90 percent less energy) from Duke Energy. Toss in free bike valet and free parking for your car and there's no reason to stay home. www.secondsundayonmail.org. (See Events.) -- MARGO PIERCE
The CINCINNATI BENGALS open the 2007 season in dramatic fashion, hosting last year's division-champion Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. Although the team has quite a few question marks after ending last year's campaign in complete meltdown fashion, it begins the year with healthy playmakers. Carson Palmer, Rudi Johnson, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh will give the Bengals a chance to overcome their current deficiencies: injuries, suspensions and inexperience. Will offensive linemen Levi Jones and Willie Anderson be healthy from the start? If not, have Bobbi Williams and Andrew Whitworth eaten enough Who Dey Burgers to make up for the loss of pass-blocking talent? Will Justin Smith and Robert Geathers continue to rush quarterbacks like John Rambo did to those cops in First Blood? Monday night these questions will be answered, and we'll have a better idea of whether the Bengals are a legit AFC championship contender (a la 2005's 11-5 season) or more like last year's heartbreaking 8-8 team. It's kind of early to consider it a statement game, but home on Monday night against the division champs is a big deal. 513-621-TDTD. (See Sports.) -- DANNY CROSS