by Steve Desroches
It was a dark and stormy night. It might be a horror movie cliché, but it really was a dark and stormy night as a group of actors and musicians assembled to rehearse Dracula For Dummys, the Halloween offering at the Provincetown Theater this month. While rain pelted the building and the wind howled outside, laughter filled the black box theater.
Kevin Doherty dragged a huge, fake rock across the stage as Paul Halley, Beau Jackett, and Sean Potter reviewed blocking directions with campy glee next to giant candelabras and a table with a papier-mâché turkey on it. Its like Castle Dracula has been invaded by the Three Stooges.
“You’re a proper young woman,” says Tristan DiVincenzo, director and writer of this comedic, musical adaptation of the classic horror tale. “You should be sitting straight up, tits out.”
That direction was aimed at the bearded Jackett.
That gives a clearer idea as to what this original production by the Provincetown Theater has in store for those who dare to enter the vampire’s lair. In this musical comedy a troupe of actors prepare to do a rather straight-forward play about the famed blood sucker when strange things begin to happen as it’s revealed a very real vampire is loose in the theater in this play within a play. But the show must go on. And on it does as the lines between who is really allergic to garlic, holy water, and crucifixes becomes blurred in this absurdist, satirical mash-up of not just Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, but also the iconic 1931 film Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, the 1922 silent film Nosferatu, with just a dash of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 thriller The 39 Steps.
“It’s like a Halloween party and all of your favorite Draculas have been put into a blender,” says DiVincenzo. “I felt the story was ripe for this kind of redo. The character is so iconic. You could show a 7-year-old a picture of Bela Lugosi and they would know who it was. We wanted to play with that, play with the familiarity of the story and take it in a totally different direction.”
Dracula for Dummys also gives the Transylvanian tale a rock and roll reboot with electric guitar driven sounds featuring music by the likes of Kate Bush, Bauhaus, the Talking Heads, and more. And while the Theater can use the music by paying the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) licensing fee, they decided to err on the side of caution and comedy by intentionally spelling “dummys” incorrectly so as not to invite any lawsuits from the correctly named reference book publisher.
The cast for this satirical, spooky story features Sean Potter as Count Dracula, Jo Brisbane as Abraham Van Helsing, Scott Cunningham as Mina Murray Harker, Kevin Doherty as Captain Swales, Paul Halley as R. M. Renfield, Beau Jackett as Young Dr. Seward, Kevin Quill as Jonathan Harker, and Sally Tighe as Lucy Westenra with music by The Harmonics, Rich Kay, Ellen Adamson, Art Brisbane, and Alabaster Punchbowl. This ensemble of tested comedic actors swirled around the stage on this dreary, gloomy night reveling in the trick and treat they were preparing for audiences looking to satiate their Halloween spirit. As the Talking Heads song “Psycho Killer” played, the cast joined in on the chorus right after Count Dracula sings, “Qu’est-ce que c’est? Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far, better,” with a rousing “Run run run run run run run away oh oh! Yeah yeah yeah yeah!” And as the wind continued to whip and beat the outside of the Bradford Street theater Dracula released a loud, menacing “bwahaha,” followed by an ensemble laugh break all under the watchful eye of a giant poster of Bela Lugosi who now looks to be thinking “Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.”
Dracula For Dummys is performed at the Provincetown Theater, 238 Bradford St. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2 p.m. through October 30, with a special Halloween night performance on Monday, October 31 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets ($25/$20 for seniors and students) and information, go to the box office, call 508.487.7487, or visit provincetowntheater.org.