To paraphrase that renowned philosopher Monty Python, “And now for something completely silly.”
To open its 2019-20 season, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre has commissioned a new spoofy take on Bram Stoker’s classic vampire tale, Dracula. Or more accurately, on the general idea of Dracula, since co-adaptors Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen gleefully concede that they never read the original novel – a confession that the hard-working, five-member cast also admits to in the opening moments of the brisk, slim 80-minute comedy.
Only Brit lit purists or maybe the Stoker estate would object to the many liberties taken. If on the other hand you have a fondness for the broad humor of the 39 Steps take-off that the Maltz served up eight seasons ago or maybe the tongue-in-cheek mayhem of Charles Ludlum, Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors may be just your cup of giggles.
The action is set in motion when the title caped Count (rock star-ish Jared Zirilli) becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck on the shores of Transylvania. Finding the Westfeldt manse, he flies in through a window and cozies up to big-boned Mina (Paul Carlin) and, later, her more comely younger sister Lucy (Mallory Newbrough), hoping to nibble on their necks and turn them undead.
When they eventually catch on to his scheme, it falls to Lucy’s timid fiancé Jonathan Harker (Peter Simon Hilton), her doctor father (Wayne LeGette) and female physician Jean Van Helsing (Carlin again) to halt Dracula’s bloodthirsty ways with a good ol’ wooden stake. That’s all you need to know, so put down the Stoker novel you were hoping to speed-read, and head to the Maltz for the brief world premiere run through Sun., Nov. 10.
Greenberg and Rosen’s anything-goes script brims with pop culture references – from Abbey Road to Mamma Mia! to I Love Lucy. Skylar Fox provides some nifty illusions, such as flying bats and a vertically levitating corpse, as well as a classic magic trick of now-you-see-him, now-you-don’t disappearance.
But the production’s best special effect is the cast, all of whom play at least two roles – except for Zirilli’s Dracula – and often execute low-tech, yet amusing quick changes from character to character. Particularly enjoyable are LeGette’s switches from Dr. Westfeldt to his bug-loving insane patient Renfield, eventually performed entirely onstage with whirling dervish skill.
Carlin’s female characters are anything but a drag, Hilton is deliciously sniveling as Lucy’s unworthy fiancé and Newbrough first takes the reins as a Cockney carriage driver before settling in as prudish until bitten Lucy. Sporting custom fangs by local dentist Gerard J. Lemongello, Jr., Zirilli oils his way throughout the production, a genuine narcissistic heartthrob.
The costumes by Tristan Raines are aptly period and apparently built for ease and speed of donning and doffing. Rob Denton’s lighting facilitates scene transitions with explosive, audience-blinding bursts, leading to the sudden appearance of Caite Hevner’s clever set pieces.
Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors is surely the least substantial show in the Maltz’s season, but only a bloody curmudgeon would not have fun at it. With it, the Maltz dips its toes into the challenging pool of new work development, which should become a regular part of its entertainment menu.
DRACULA: A COMEDY OF TERRORS, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Rd., Jupiter. Through Sun., Nov. 10. $62-$90. 561-575-2223 or visit www.jupitertheatre.org.