Imagine if a teenaged Wattpad author wrote the classic 1897 novel Dracula. Now, imagine that this sexy retelling is actually funny. This is the concept behind the Segal Centre’s newest play, Dracula: a Comedy of Terrors. Co-written by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen, the play features five brilliant actors who collectively assume over a dozen roles—and make it look easy. While the basic plot of the novel is unchanged, Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors raises the melodramatic stakes. Sexy vamps, special effects, and slapstick comedy brighten up the gothic stage, making this the perfect show to delight in this spooky season.
The play follows Jonathan Harker (Colin Simmons), a nerdy 19th-century realtor who sells multiple London properties to the exceptionally thirsty Count Dracula (James Daly). After seeing an image of Harker’s beautiful fiancée Lucy (Naomi Ngebulana), Dracula decides he must attend the couple’s engagement party at Lucy’s family mansion, a transformed mental asylum that employs—yet underpays—the patients who live there. Here the play introduces Lucy’s father, Dr. Westfeldt (Ellen David) and sister Mina (David Noël), who, despite her luscious ginger beard, deserves love just as much as the more conventionally beautiful Lucy. Hijinks ensue as a love rhombus unfolds—because every character is a sucker for a sexy shirtless vamp.
When thinking of the hottest undead bloodsuckers around, a few key players come to mind: Edward Cullen, Spike, and Damon Salvatore. Now, thanks to Greenberg and Rosen, an underdog has joined the ranks—the fangtastic Count Dracula. The play cleverly caters to the audience by displaying Daly’s washboard abs, leaving both characters and audience members alike down for the Count. While his dashing performance was undoubtedly a highlight, Dracula is not the only eligible bat-chelor making his rounds in Whitby, England. The timid Harker shares some intimately hilarious moments with his fiancée, Lucy, including one involving a cheeky candle-related innuendo.
Meanwhile, the play does not shy away from adapting to the times. The scenes are filled to the brim with allusions to present-day pop culture, like Uber drivers and The Beatles. Moreover, the production leans into contemporary gender roles by having Lucy hold the reins in her relationship with Harker. The couple pushes each other to be their best selves and is ultimately able to resolve their relationship issues without any bad blood. Another notable decision was making Dr. Van Helsing a woman instead of a man, adding nuance to the character with subtle feminist subversion.
Wigs and physical comedy, though, are the true MVPs of the play. Due to the bite-sized cast, each actor projects their talents through costume and wig changes that cloak their previous personas. David Noël is a particular sucker for quick changes. He seamlessly switches from cougar sister Mina to Van Helsing, a stoic and matriarchal German doctor who understands the high stakes of vampire slaying and upholding feminist values. But as Van Helsing tends to Mina amidst a mysterious illness that makes her go batty, the audience asks—how can one actor play two characters at the same time? Fear not! A ginger wig attached to a pillow and strategically placed fake arms cover up any visible discrepancies.
The actors zhoosh up their performance with montage magic and jester tricks. As the characters journey across Europe, they use common modern objects like hobby horses and Axe body spray—signifying the foggy air surrounding their weary travels. The faux fog is incredibly convincing, and the audience can almost smell the high-school locker room stench. To explore Dracula’s chambers, Harker leads the group down several flights of stairs, using the classic mime trick that fully deserved the giggle the audience gave it. All in all, the play is a delightful romp that sinks its teeth into the absurdity and drama that is missing from the original novel.
With incredible acting and an unprecedented comedic angle, this stage production of Dracula: A Comedy of Horrors is not one to be missed. The work that both cast and crew infused into the play is clearly not in vein. So sit down, Buffy—this production is already a slay.
Dracula: a Comedy of Terrors is running at the Segal Centre from Oct. 23 to Nov. 13. Student discounts are available.