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Dracula – A Comedy of Terrors

Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Jordan Boatman, James Daly, Ellen Harvey and Arnie Burton. (Photo: Matthew Murphy)


Dracula – A Comedy of Terrors

By Fern Siegel


Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror classic terrified 19th-century readers. But for modern audiences, it’s also ripe for parody. And that’s the charm of Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors.


All the tropes of the genre are here — sent up with modern references. Now off-Broadway at the New World Stages, the comedy is broad and Count Dracula (James Daly) is a hunk-a-hunk of burning desire. He’s tall, blonde and ridiculously fit, the only man in Transylvania with his own Nautilus equipment. And while he’s both campy and boasting a gay sensibility, he’s got a pansexual vibe — a penchant for necks and a taste for blood. His swagger sustains him.


Clocking in at 90 minutes without an intermission, Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen’s Dracula liberally follows the Stoker story: A Transylvania count heads to London on a ghost ship that arrives with a dead crew, strange bite marks are evident on the sailors’ necks. Dracula is in London renting homes — but crashes an engagement party, effectively cuing the aerosol fog.


The cast, save Daly, expertly play multiple roles, particularly Arnie Burton, who triples as various characters. This Dracula is a romp set in a British manor overseen by Dr. Wallace Westfelt (Ellen Harvey), a psychiatrist who runs an asylum on the premises.


Dracula takes a hankering to Lucy Westfeldt (Jordan Boatman), an outspoken scientist engaged to estate agent Jonathan Harker (Andrew Keenan-Bolger), a sweet, but timid traditionalist. That’s one of the show’s plusses: It deftly upends Victorian stereotypes of women as damsels in distress or sexual prudes. Throw in doctor and vampire hunter Jean Van Helsing, insect-obsessed Renfield and Mina, Lucy’s wacky sister, and you have the makings of a fast-paced comedy that doesn’t miss a beat.



Ellen Harvey, James Daly, Arnie Burton (Photo: Matthew Murphy)


Or as Dracula says of Lucy: “I like my women B-Positive!” Harker: “Yes, well she’s quite the optimist.”


One caveat: The writers chose to switch the roles of the sisters, which, for those familiar with the original tale, is confusing and pointless.


This version of Dracula is played strictly for laughs, leaning heavily into physical comedy and delivering a clear nod to the work of Charles Ludlam. The jokes take a stab at almost everything — from mental health to “I Love Lucy” to a visual tribute to The Beatles’ Abbey Road. There is even a moment when the Count ruminates on the downside of eternal life.  


The gags are also verbal: “Welcome to my house," Dracula says. "Please note that you have entered under no duress and of your own free will." "Isn't that a unique greeting?" asks the meek Harker. "Liability issues," counters the suave Count.


The sets by Tijana Bjelajac, with walls that project red bat wings, costumes by Tristan Raines and lighting by Rob Denton are a scream. Victoria Deiorio’s original music and sound design complements the action.


Greenberg’s direction is lively and his talented ensemble is clearly having fun in this silly, over-the-top production. There have been many incarnations of Dracula over the centuries. This one is perfectly timed to take a bite out of fall.   


Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors, New World Stages 340 W. 50 St.

Running time: 90 minutes, through Jan. 7, 2024