Friday, November 3, 2017

Reviewed in Brief: Collide's Dracula is a Campy Delight

If you liked Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, you will LOVE this show.

Dracula from COLLIDE THEATRICAL on Vimeo.

Cross necklaces? Check. Vampy face paint? Check. Perfectly tailored pleated pants? Check. Moody emo rock band? Check. Ubiquitously smeared eyeliner paired with thin strapped halter tops? Check, check, check.

If there was any doubt that the 1990s are back in full force, Dracula, now showing at the Ritz Theater, sweeps it straight into the trash. This campy reimagination of the traditional horror story shouldn't work but somehow it does, and the firmly planted 1990s roots definitely help.

The story here is an extremely simplified version of Dracula with a few twists. There is no dialogue; in fact, the entire show is told through modern dance and covers of carefully chosen pop songs. Everything is set in the modern era (I'd place the influence in the 1990s, but the aesthetic is right at home with today's latest Kendell Jenner lewks). In this light, Dracula comes off more as a whiny stalker than a virile vampire king, and the effect is oddly... heartwarming?

I love things that expand my mind and are hard to describe, and this definitely fits the bill. Clocking in at a tight 90 minutes (INCLUDING intermission - why even bother at that point? Just skip it!), it had my jaw open from the get-go and really won me over. The performers are clearly passionate about the show and fully invested in making it sing, and that is key to making this work. The musicians are quite talented, especially Michael Hanna as Dracula. Hanna lives everyone's dark twisted fantasy of being a shadowy rock god slicing his vocals over the surprisingly solid rock band like fangs in a virgin's neck (sorry guys, I had to). He'd be perfect starring in a focused musical about Queen, and he is able to narrate the show through his few songs.

The other half of the performance is composed of some eccentric, captivating modern dance (when is the last time you heard that word combo?). The show begins with what I can only describe as a balletic grunge club mash-up, devolving about halfway through the show into a brilliant parody of a Sia music video and culminating in a Thriller-esque group sashay near the end. Like the music it's an extremely random combination of elements, but it works. I found myself drawn to the dancers' consuming physicality and as an avid fan of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, I was grinning from ear to ear by the time we left.

If you want something 100% unique, performed by a highly talented mix of young performers and straight from the brain of a mad theatrical scientist, Dracula is for you. It sounds strange (and I suppose it is), but it made for a great date night and plenty of conversation after the show. I'm eager to see what else the new-to-me company of Collide has up their velvet sleeves. Dracula runs at the Ritz Theater through November 12; for more information or to buy tickets, click on this link.

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