Arts & Events

THEATER REVIEW:Inferno Theatre's 'Dracula,' running through November 18

Ken Bullock
Friday November 03, 2017 - 06:58:00 PM

Violin and accordion (Carol Braves and Lana Palmer) process into the playing space under the dome atop Brooklyn Preserve near Lake Merritt, introducing the new version of 'Dracula,' adapted and staged by Giulio Perrone, the founder of Berkeley's Inferno Theatre, a trick-or-treat of ensemble theater, bringing the atmospherics and the strange interrelations of Bram Stoker's vampire masterpiece alive--or at least undead--to audiences this autumnal season ... 

Inferno produced 'Dracula' at their home venue, Berkeley Community Church, five years ago. This staging features not only a new, dynamic cast (Joshua Morris Williams, Michael Needham, Ben Elie, Lana Palmer, Laura Zimmerman, Danni Horwitz, Olivia Dunn, Caitlyn Prather, Carol Braves), but a new script by Perrone. 

The new script has a different sense of emphasis, a different feel. Jerome Solberg, who sometimes has assisted with Inferno productions--and who I think first saw them perform with the previous staging of 'Dracula'--was at opening night for the new version, saying to Perrone afterwards that the new version succeeded in further coalescing the storyline ... 

And the new cast takes it up and runs with it, giving it more texture and nuance than its somewhat festive predecessor had. 

The Transylvanians still greet Jonathan Harker, on his way to Castle Dracula, with evasion and alarm. Renfield still raves and exults in his asylum, begging for vermin. Mina and Lucy are still visited by night, bearing strange marks and demeanors the next morning. And Doctor Van Helsing still prepares his garlic wreaths and stakes ... 

But "all is changed, changed utterly ... "  

It's an entertaining and absorbing evening of theater. 

Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 7 through November 18 at Brooklyn Preserve, 1433-12th Avenue at E. 15th Street, off International Boulevard, near Foothill. $20-$25; Thursdays, apy what you can at the door. Tickets & info: or 825-0449 


--Théâtre de la Ville, Camus' 'State of Siege' at Zellerbach Hall 

"The end of the world, but not our country." 

A comet appears above Cadiz, "a comet of evil," arousing fear of some disaster. A young cynic, Nada (Philippe Demarle), warns "from the distance of contempt" of what may ensue. The population is galvanized by anticipation--and dread. Finally, the plague itself, embodied as a grotesque man (Serge Maggiani) and his statuesque, chic and efficient secretary (Valérie Dashwood), appear, the Plague demanding to rule "on my own terms"--and the city's officials hurry to collaborate with him. 

This is the start of Théâtre de la Ville's production of Albert Camus' 'State of Siege,' 1948, as adapted by their director, Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, which Cal Performances has brought to Zellerbach Hall. 

"Plague strikes an actor in his speech" ... "How far we are from theater. Now we are in the world of pain" 

Théâtre de la Ville has played at Zellerbach twice before in recent years, staging splendid perfomances of Ionesco's 'Rhinoceros' and Pirandello's 'Six Characters in Search of an Author.' 'Rhinoceros' (and some would say 'Six Characters' as a predecessor) 'is from that fashion of postwar dramaturgy--Ionesco, Beckett, Adamov, Genet--dubbed "Theater of the Absurd" by Martin Esslin in his book of the same title in 1961, when it was published in London, over a decade after the movement had begun, though its monicker in Paris originally translates just as "New Theater," like New Wave, referring to its dramaturgy as being drawn from older avant-garde theater, especially Surrealist, without being doctrinaire of any movement. 

Esslin plucked the term "Absurd" from Camus' 'Myth of Sisyphus;' Camus had taken it from Kierkegaard. Camus' novel, 'The Plague,' published a year before 'State of Siege,' has genuinely Existentialistic absurd qualities in Camus' sense. 'State of Siege,' which critics found disappointing, partly because it wasn't a dramatization of his novel, is also very different from what Esslin later dubbed Absurdist drama. Instead, it has roots in what was the mainstream of French theater from the 17th century, as it was transformed by Victor Hugo and the Romantic Movement in the 19th and by the modernism of Jacques Coupeau's followers in the 20th (Louis Jouvet, Jean-Louis Barrault), a theater of declarative, even epigrammatic poetic language, spectacle and romance--and a civic theatrical form. 

"Easier to be heaven's accomplice than its victim!" 

At the core of a complex plot is a pair of young lovers who end up leading the resistance to the Plague and his collaborators, finally assisted by the Secretary (who seems an oddly elegant bureaucrat, bjut has strange affinities in her appearance and actions onstage with the role María Casares--who starred in Camus' plays and in his life--created in Cocteau's film 'Orfée,' the Princess or La Morte, Death, which Casares vaudevillized onstage in Paris in the 90s in George Tabóri's play 'Mein Kampf'). 

Théâtre de la Ville, as in its previous appearances for Cal Performances, dazzled the audience with its brillance at using all the means of ensemble acting, stylization, lighting, sound, technology, scenery and stagecraft to deliver the message and the complex experience of a play that is both allegorical and immediate, creating figures and scenes that embody a vision of humanity that ranges from the intimate to the social, from happiness to the anguish of death and dysfunction, decisively connecting what seem to be opposite extremes.