Four people stand in front of lecterns. From left: a young white woman in a long black lace dress, an older white man in a tweed suit, a middle-aged white man in a navy suit, and a younger white man in tan trousers and dark jacket. Behind them is another man in a dark velvet suit. The background looks like an old-fashioned radio front, with purple and red light illuminating it.
Orson Welles' Dracula at Glass Apple Theatre Credit: Joe Mazza/Bravelux

I love Dracula. I’ve loved him ever since a Saturday afternoon in the late 70s or early 80s when I saw Bela Lugosi portray him on TV as part of Creature Double Feature. Max Schreck, Christopher Lee, and many other actors have only deepened my appreciation for the immortal bloodsucker. I always root for him and I’m always sad when he’s destroyed. Any new production of Bram Stoker’s book has a high bar to clear and a lot of baggage to haul. 

Orson Welles’ Dracula
Through 9/25: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark, 773-338-2177, glassappletheatre.com, $25 ($15 students, seniors, industry, and military/veterans)

Brian McKnight has added an extra challenge in adapting Orson Welles’s 1938 radio play to the stage for Glass Apple Theatre. The magic of audio drama is that the listener imagines the action with only voices to guide them. There’s nothing wrong with McKnight’s cast. Their costumes look period-accurate to late-19th century Europe, and the shape of an Art Deco radio against the back wall of the stage—with video projections of stormy seas and brooding Transylvanian landscape coming through the sound mesh—is a nice touch. But the characters are stuck statically behind four lecterns, reciting text, then exiting stage left or right. They can’t touch because they represent only voices. Here, unlike in the movies, Dracula is almost a bit part. He’s just a guy glowering in a handsome burgundy suit. He doesn’t bite or fly but stalks offstage meekly when his lines are finished.

I spent minutes at a time listening with my eyes closed, and that was a mildly enjoyable way to take in what comes off as a dated Gothic tale. It would have worked much better coming out of the speakers of my stereo at home. But even then, none of the menace, erotic tension, or mystery of so many other iterations I know would have been there. I was perfectly happy with this Dracula turning to dust; he didn’t have much life to lose.