See Or Skip: Four More Plays We Saw At D.C. Theaters In October
Dracula: A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really
Review by Nicole Hertvik
Spooky season is officially here and Rorschach Theatre is going all in with Kate Hamill’s Dracula, A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really, an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 vampire thriller. In Stoker’s novel, men call the shots while the women swoon or passively offer up a jugular. Not so in this feminist adaptation, which casts women in roles originally written for men, painting vampirism as a metaphor for toxic masculinity while delivering a thoroughly entertaining piece of theater.
In director Rebecca Rovezzi’s capable hands, each of the three male characters in the script reminds us of the hurdles women face in the struggle for equality. Dr. Seward, played with upper-crust earnestness by a debonair Erik Harrison, embodies the Victorian tendency to dismiss women as delicate flowers. Ben Topa, perfectly cast as Dracula, is irresistibly charming, sexy, manipulative, and deadly — the exact opposite of his first conquest, the polite but changeable British solicitor Jonathan Harker (a talented Conor Patrick Donahue).
The remaining two-thirds of the cast features a cadre of diverse and fascinating females, including OG vampire slayer Dr. Van Helsing, played by Phoenix Cross with delicious badassery. Christina Day is a delightfully disturbing Renfield, the mental patient whose mumblings predict Dracula’s arrival, while Bri Houtman delights and surprises as the virgin ingenue and Jessica Ludd portrays reluctant vampire slayer Mina Harker as a strong, introspective intellectual.
Rorschach approaches its immersive productions as if they were art installations and this site-specific production staged in an abandoned firehouse is the perfect recipe for seasonal shivers. The mood is set outside by a bonfire and cocktails served in “blood bags,” and one inside, Sarah Markley’s period set bathes the audience in layers of intrigue. Gauzy on-stage curtains that double as doors enable creepy shadow play. Renfield’s lunatic musings are scribbled on one of the firehouse’s interior brick walls.
Sydney Moore’s substantial Victorian-era costumes have a decidedly Gothic feel, sound designer Kenny Neal’s ominous piano interludes punctuate the scene changes. For a spooky autumn outing, Rorschach Theatre’s Dracula is just the thing to stir your blood.
Rorschach Theatre’s Dracula: A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really runs through November 6 at The Firehouse at the Parks at Walter Reed. Tickets are $10 to $45. Runtime is two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
Read more here