Sink Your Teeth In! 

Great cast, direction drive BCT's eerie Dracula

Mark Anthony Taylor is in desperate need of a manicure.

The actor, a familiar mainstay of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival for nearly a decade, is currently scaring up crowds in the title role of Boise Contemporary Theater's Dracula. That chill you feel comes not only from Taylor's mesmerizing performance, but from his costume, which includes elongated, unkempt fingernails that look poised to scratch any unruly audience member's eyes out.

Show director and BCT founder Matthew Clark has assembled a fine cast of 12--most, like Taylor, are frequent Shakespeare Festival players--to bring this grim Bram Stoker classic to life. It's not a pleasant story, and at times the creepiness factor makes one squirm in his or her seat, an effect Clark no doubt hoped to achieve.

Set primarily in 19th century London, Dracula follows a number of characters united by the threat of a bloodthirsty vampire from Transylvania descending in their midst.

There's Dr. Seward (Neil Brookshire), the young, somewhat naive caretaker of an insane asylum, where most of the play's action occurs; John Harker (Dwayne Blackaller), an English businessman who unwittingly provides Dracula with insight into London; Harker's strong-willed fiancée Mina (Karen Wennstrom), whom Dracula tries unsuccessfully to ensnare; Mina's demonized friend and Seward's unrequited love Lucy (Sara Bruner); and Professor Van Helsing (Arthur Glen Hughes), whose unique insight into Dracula promises to save them all.

Thrown into the mix is Renfield (Gordon Reinhart), a patient of Seward's who at one time served Count Dracula. Here, Renfield acts as a narrator of sorts, effectively setting the stage early on for the terrible events to come.

Clark's set is a minimal one, a cage to incarcerate Renfield being the only set piece to never leave the stage. Beds, chairs, tables and coffins come and go seamlessly thanks to trap doors and ready stagehands behind the curtains. Some scenes unfold behind a black scrim with low lighting, adding to the play's pensive tone.

Taylor delights as Dracula, clearly relishing the opportunity to bring such a fixture of nightmares to life. As the terrorized Harker, Blackaller finds the right balance portraying the character's fear and newfound strength, while Bruner frightens and breaks hearts as the transformed Lucy. Reinhart uncannily evokes images of Hannibal Lector during his cage scenes, and supporting player Renee Knappenberger contributes to the eerie mood in a brief, but notable turn as Lucy's marionette-like maid.

Dracula by Steven Dietz from the novel by Bram Stoker, directed by Matthew Clark

Oct. 21-23, 28-31.

Boise Contemporary Theater, 854 Fulton St.

More info/tickets: 442-3232, 331-9224 or www.ictickets.com.

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