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A literary Dracula proves a hit at Taproot

Taproot Theatre’s popular and literary “Dracula” fittingly closes on Halloween. In a brand new adaptation of the Victorian thriller, artistic director Scott Nolte wanted to resurrect the vampire as a monster, rather than a sparkly teen heartthrob. “A friend and I read the original 35 years ago as a dare,” Nolte recalled. What struck him then, and again in a recent dive back into the Bram Stoker classic, was how modern the material felt. “It’s a collection of letters, receipts, and journal entries. It’s presented as this evidence of this evil, proof that it really happened. You read it and it seems true.”
The "Dracula" cast falls into their roles with gusto. Jeff Berryman, Melanie Hampton, Anastasia Higham, Rob Martin, Pam Nolte, Chris Shea and Daniel Stoltenberg all look and sound properly Victorian. Aaron Lamb as the mysterious count deliberately shifts his physical age and his accent in the way that slowly terrifies his guests as they puzzle out why the count seems so chipper after a little late night roaming. Set and sound designer Mark Lund, costume designer Sarah Burch Gordon and lighting designer Brian Engel create the gloomy settings of the novel.

Nathan Jeffrey’s commissioned script hews very close to source material and keeps the epistolary style that intrigued Nolte so much. “This adaptation is not about bats flying about on wires,” said Nolte, who directed this production. “Instead it revolves around the enormous inspiring courage of these people who take a stand against a diabolic force.”

Matt Orme as the production's fight director squeezes a number of action sequences onto Taproot’s small stage, including a satisfying staking or two. “Matt’s amazing,” said Nolte. “He’s very attentive to what’s the safest way. With our deep thrust stage, and the seats so close, our audience can see all the tricks. So you have to find different ways to script the fights and not land in the audience’s lap.”
The production has attracted good crowds since it opened last month. So Taproot decided to extend the run through this week. “There’s not a lot of horror or thriller theater done any more,” said Nolte. “This production is an intimate telling and creates a visceral response to the impending doom.”

Aaron Lamb and Melanie Hampton in “Dracula” at Taproot Theatre
Erik Stuhaug, used with permission of Taproot Theatre