Exploring the crossroads of religion, culture, and science through a Pagan lens

Dracula explores the darkness at Mysterium

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It’s October again – that mysterious month where darkness begins to truly overtake the light and people come into touch with monsters, goblins, and demons. It’s that time when we talk about those nebulous veils that separate us from the mysterious and supernatural growing thin, and we seek out opportunities to explore our fears.

But what if our fears are right here among us? What if those things we fear can slither unnoticed into our very homes and families and feed of ourselves and our loved ones? These are the themes explored in Mysterium Theater’s adaptation of the classic vampire tale, Dracula.

Dracula at Mysterium

In the title role is Jason M. Cook, who returns to acting after a long break from the stage. With his platinum blonde hair, long flowing cloaks, and Transylvanian accent, Cook’s Dracula stands out among his English neighbors. But he excels at a delicious charm that believably gets him accepted into this foreign environment. Isn’t that the point? Sometimes evil can infiltrate unnoticed, and we allow its charms to suck our lives away. Cook’s vampire takes advantage of evil’s charm, which make his transitions into the true Dracula personality even more dramatic.

His nemesis, supernatural expert Abraham Van Helsing, is played with strength and an almost bullish determination by Daniel Tennant. The character is known for his single-minded obsession with destroying Dracula, and Tennant’s brute force in the role plays directly into that characterization. He is an imposing figure who no self-respecting vampire would want as an enemy.

A large part of the drama is propelled by the love story. When Jonathan’s Harker’s lover Mina is transfixed under the life-destroying spell of the evil Count, the tension created between their love and her illness is a driving force of the plot. Joshua Aguilar and Christina Desiere strike this friction well, especially during the show’s tenser moments. The love chemistry between the characters isn’t as strong as it could be, but then that fits the story. After all, Mina is ill, controlled by Dracula, and slowly fading into a vampire herself.

Mark Rosier stands out in that strange but pivotal role of Renfield. Short of stature, but full of power Rosier delivers equal doses of profound and crazy. Playing off him are the admirable performances of Robin Walton, KC Marie Pandell, and Gerard Power.

Mysterium has a new location, the La Habra Depot Playhouse, and the move fit perfectly into this production. The house is long and narrow, and combined with lighting effects, creates the perfect gothic atmosphere for this supernatural murder mystery. Director Holly Baker-Kreiswirth and her actors take full advantage of the larger theater, which is downright cavernous compared to Mysterium’s Orange location. In a gothic mystery, the set design becomes an important character, and set designer Eugene McDonald brings his character to life.

Evil can be among us. It doesn’t always stand out, and it can show a face of sweetness. Despite the standard vampire mythology that they are repelled by crosses and all things holy, evil is much more complicated than the outward trappings of religion. Mysterium’s production delves into the realm of exploring the evil among us, rooting it out, and driving a stake through its heart, yet at one point Dracula stresses the truth that if humanity wants to find the source of evil, it needs only to look in the mirror. The reflection you see will not be his.

WHAT: Dracula

WHERE: Mysterium Theater
                La Habra Depot Playhouse
                311 S. Euclid
                La Habra, CA

 WHEN:   Thursdays – Sundays October 17 – November 2

 CONTACT: (562) 697-3311

Author: Tim

I am a teacher, a theater lover, and a High Priest in the Temple of Witchcraft. I love to point out the places where the everyday world, arts, science, and religion intersect. I stand for interfaith cooperation and the belief that people of all religions, political beliefs, and nationalities have more in common with each other than differences.

One thought on “Dracula explores the darkness at Mysterium

  1. Renfield has always been my favorite character in Dracula — followed by the Lord himself and then Lucy. Jonathan has always been my least favorite character. And I am incredibly jealous that you got to see Jason on stage. His sermons are incredible and inspiring — I can only imagine how beguiling his Dracula is. I can only assume every man and women in the audience was ready to present their necks for feeding!!!

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