Going to last night’s world premiere adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum hopes ran high for yet another ambitious production realized across the broad boards of its bucolic Topanga Canyon stage. And as the first act opened things were headed in a right and imaginative direction — with even the local wildlife getting into the act in enhancing the eeriness what with a barn owl screeching spookily somewhere out there in the dark of the surrounding woods and a bat’s amazing fly-by that upstaged a scene at Castle Dracula but in doing so provided an incredible moment of authenticity.
But ambition alone does not a successful show make, and the fact is this Dracula sucks. Tragically that incredulous chiropteran cameo was about as good as it got in opening night’s uneven, overloaded and undying workshop-level production written and directed by Ellen Geer who apparently couldn’t make up her mind if she wanted a drama, comedy or musical so decided it would be all three, sometimes with ridiculously farcical results.
But not for the troop’s lack of trying. The onstage live narration was effective and the large and mostly talented ensemble cast prove gamely enthusiastic and committed throughout the proceedings, but as the second act dragged onward through various characters bursting into song to its inevitable and piss poorly choregraphed climactic battle (in which the death of cowboy Quincey dumbfoundedly overshadows the killing of Dracula), the energies of the actors were focused less on their performances and more on just getting the mouthfuls of Victorian-era dialogue out as quickly as damn possible in a losing effort to keep the show’s runtime from topping the three-hour mark.
WHERE: The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290; 310/455-3723
HOW MUCH: $20-$25
WHEN: Through September 29
and Christina Howard as Lucy by Miriam Geer.