San Francisco

A Vivid Production of Dracula Inquest
Central Works Theatre Company

Also see Richard's reviews of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Monsieur Chopin, Patrick's review of Romeo and Juliet and Jeanie's reviews of Spamalot and South Pacific


Kenny Toll, Joe Estlack, Joshua Schell
and Megan Trout

Central Works Theatre Company in Berkeley develops and produces world premiere plays and has now come up with an innovative way of presenting the Dracula legend. I think I have seen this blood sucking monster in every conceivable way, from the Bela Lugosi Universal film of the 1930s to Frank Langella portraying the character in the 1977 Broadway play at the Martin Beck Theatre to Frank Wildhorn's musical in 2004 to a recent Steven Dietz 1996 play that was presented at Center Rep several years ago. There was also a television series starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyer last year.

Gary Graves has written a completely different and intelligent version of the legend. This two-hour production comes to vivid life as, in 1895 Scotland Yard, detective Avery Sly arrives at an asylum where he will interrogate four inmates about the disappearance of a mysterious nobleman from Transylvania. Four of the characters are alive at the end of the Bram Stoker novel and they are inmates at the institution for the criminally insane. The hard-bitten cockney detective interrogates these four surviving characters separately. The question becomes whether or not they are Victorian vampire hunting heroes or conspirators to a murder with a particularly gothic alibi.

Graves has written an intense play with brilliant dialogue for the five actors. Direction by Jan Zvaifler is sharp and fast paced. The acting is outstanding on the part of the five actors.

Dracula never appears in this production. John Flanagan is first-rate as Detective Sly and has a pitch perfect cockney accent. Kenny Toll gives a charismatic performance as Dr. Steward who is usually a minor character in films and on stage but is a major character in Bram Stoker's novel. Joshua Schell is terrific as Jonathan Harker, and Joe Estlack gives a splendid performance as Professor Van Helsing. Megan Trout gives a magnetic performance as Mina Harker. The actors provide amazing British accents. They are in your face in this intimate three-sided theatre that seats around 60 persons.

This production, as the ads say, "promises to scare the crap out of you" toward the end of the play.

Dracula Inquest plays through August 17th, 2014, at the historic Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Berkeley. For tickets call 510-558-1381 or visit www.centralworks.org.


Photo: Jim Norrena


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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