Want proof that context is everything? Consider the Hypocrites‘ Dracula. Onstage at a cabaret-style comedy venue like, say, the Annoyance, where party-primed customers sit around bistro tables and drink alcoholic beverages, Timothy F. Griffin’s new version of the classic horror story by Bram Stoker would be a gory, funny—if overlong—Halloween goof with a fist-pumping feminist gloss. Yes, it’d be a goof with a gloss: righteously yet uncomplicatedly entertaining. We wouldn’t even worry about the cartoon mugging of the actors under Sean Graney‘s direction, needing no better justification than that the funny faces make us laugh.
But Dracula isn’t running at the Annoyance. It’s at Mercury Theater, where an audience member sits in one of 290 seats arranged in rows, all of which face forward toward the proscenium stage. At that level of formality, and over the course of a two-hour running time, we might start wanting to know things.
Like, why do characters (especially Janelle Villas’s Lucy Westenra) spend so much time mugging? And why does Graney set up a convention where they direct their dialogue out at the house (especially Maurice Demus’s Jonathan Harker), only to violate it at will? And how come everything is so awfully, arbitrarily arch? And the feminist theme seems tacked on? And a last-minute turn toward Grand Guignol features stage effects that range from deft to oafish? And so on and on, with no answers in sight—except maybe that the show is overburdened by hip pretension, and its length and locale make that squirmingly apparent.
Dracula Through 11/5: Wed-Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport, 773-325-1700, mercurytheaterchicago.com, $30-$55.