Prague Shakespeare Company gives a good fright to Prague inhabitants with the European premiere of Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker production. A one-man play, starring Jared Doreck, retells the classical story in an inventive way, wisely engaging into use of special stage lightning and sound effects.
The play has a two-layer structure, additionally to a well-known plot turning Bram Stocker himself into an unseen character. Seven years after the bizarre events the author writes to Jonathan Harker, asking him to tell the story of his encounter with the vicious count. Stocker’s letter offers the character an excuse to reread long-forgotten journal and other evidences, stored in the attic and share a tale of Dracula with us.
Adapted and directed by Jim Helsinger, Artistic Director of Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, the plot staging is nicely balanced. Storytelling technique, predominantly in the first part of the play, alternates with a fair amount of action, so rare for one-man shows. An element of humor, mainly absent in Stocker’s book, spices up the production and lets a spectator to take even the most intense moments with ease.
One of the biggest attractions of the staging is in the audience’s unification based on the feeling of sharing a secret unknown to Jonathan. Audience members chuckle every time at his ignorant surprise about the Transylvanian count’s “sharp white teeth” and constant refusal to dine. This knowledge, brought by the recent popularity of the vampires, puts spectators above the main character.
Even though, Lucy’s role in the ongoing events and her relation to Mina are not always clear for someone who hasn’t read the book, however, as a pleasant surprise comes lack of mainstream tendency to romanticize the relationship of Mina and Dracula.
The play came out successful with the help of Jared Doreck’s exceptional acting. He has an impressive ability to change the characters instantly, heavily relying on the use of body language and sometimes turning to the physical theatre techniques. Changing the accents, the actor brings uniqueness to every character; remarkable is his Dracula’s Transylvanian dialect, rarely shown even in Hollywood adaptations of the book.
Doreck’s interpretation of the vampire stands out of all other characters. His choking rattle and the murderous gaze covering the whole auditorium makes one freeze in the seat with a heart stop beating. As Jonathan he, too, radiates emotions, rising audience’s anxiety and fear simultaneously with the character’s feelings.
This effect is achieved by Doreck’s constant collaboration with Eric Sammons, Production Stage Manager. He puts lightning and sound together in amazingly fitting way, making wonders with audience’s mind at the most intense moments. An inevitable part of the staging is a candle, often being the only source of light in the room. The space of the theatre is intelligently used, engaging even the sealing as a stage.
This season Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker will be performed three more times at the Divadlo Kolowrat, Oct. 29-31. Tickets are available online at the PSC website: www.pragueshakespeare.cz/tickets.html
By Karina Verigina