Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review: A Sucking Good Time, or Transylvania Mania

In their latest drunken theater spectacular, Three Day Hangover hunts the world's most famous vampire. Staged in a fittingly perfect room at The West Park Presbyterian Church, Dracula, as written by Steven Dietz, is a sharp modern spin on the Bram Stoker classic about the titular vampire.
In this immersive production, the audience is taken on a vampire hunt to stop the immortal Dracula before he sucks all of New York. Their blood of course. Layered with modern pop culture gems and spoken with a modern tongue, Dietz's script is ripe for the boozy games. To tell this tale, director Kristin McCarthy Parker allows the crowd of vampire hunters to drink and mingle before they are greeted by Renfield, preparing everyone with the rules of the night. While the evening is prescribed for you, you are truly in charge of your own personal experience. You are encouraged to move around and see the action. If there are bad site lines or you can’t see something, it's completely on the audience. But be warned, the closer you are to the action, the more likely you'll be dragged in. The story follows bffs Lucy and Mina as they grow excited about the prospect of having same name boyfriends. Lucy's potential suitor is Dr. Seward, who runs the local mental hospital while Mina's bae, Jon, is on assignment at a castle in Transylvania. When the titular bat gets loose on a blood hunt, he finds a victim in Lucy. Lucy grows sick, causing Seward to grow concerned. He discovers two bite marks on her neck and instantly calls in the reinforcements in the form of his former professor, the newly sponsored Van Yeungling. And the hunt is on. They fill up on their defense items, rosaries, garlic, stakes, and holy water in the form of alcohol because vampires' kryptonite is booze. The action horror comedy is fast paced and truly what you make of it. The bar stays open during the entirety of the show so if your glass runs low during the thunderclap drinking game, best to fill up. By keeping the show minimally staged, Parker kept things simple. Even in an open room, she was able to create specific spaces by using the audience as natural walls. This also allowed some of the magic to happen by drawing focus to a certain area. With the blend of modern comedy and period melodrama, Parker was able to guide her company through the world with the greatest of ease.
With recognizable characters, finding something fresh was integral. And some of the cast found some great new nuances for their characters. As the professor formally known as Van Helsing, January LaVoy has grit and dry force. LaVoy, even with a mic, had such power. Jonathan Finnegan as Seward may have looked like a mix of Matt Smith’s Dr. Who and Brad Majors from “Rocky Horror”, but Finnegan made Seward his own. Seward’s geeky charm was a wonderful juxtaposition to Miranda Noelle Wilson’s Lucy. Paul Kite as Renfield goes crazy in all the right ways. As the possessed loony-bin inmate, Kite made bold choices to create a strong character.
Sometimes the most important element of an immersive theatrical experience is the atmosphere. With previous Three Day Hangover productions, staging the work at a bar provided a long list of pros and cons. In Dracula, moving it to a great hall where the architecture married the scenic and prop flawlessly brought the experience to a new level. The scenic and lighting design by Christopher and Justin Swader was strongly executed. Their attention to detail and ability to create an environment reminiscent to the world of the play allowed the audience to feel even closer to the action. The sound design by Toby Jaguar Algya blended the period with modern sounds, filling the room with each thunderclap.
Three Day Hangover continues to serve original theatrical experiences. The marriage of classic material with boozy theater may not be all that new anymore but the way they engage the audience is what keeps audiences coming back. If you’re eager for Halloween to come quickly, head over to Dracula for a funny fright.