“Dracula” at Taproot Theatre

Everyone knows the name “Dracula ” and the fact that it bespeaks horror! Some of us have even dressed as vampires à la Mr. Dracula on Halloween. But few of us have actually read the Gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker that was first published in 1897.

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Photo by John Ulman

Taproot offers an adaptation of the Bram Stoker story. But be aware, this is an adaptation of the original story, not the campy popular version that’s part of popular culture. Here, the deeper story is one of good versus evil. The moral is clear, but in the telling it loses none of its macabre quality.

In this version, directed by Scott Nolte, Count Dracula, the vampire, is played with bloodthirsty passion by Aaron Lamb. His quest for blood leaves a trail of depleted corpses. It all takes place on Mark Lund’s stark and eerie stage of grey stonewalls and stone floor and the most minimal props. Brian Engel has bathed this grey set in low lighting that reinforces the dark mood most effectively.

The story centers on a group of innocent English gentlemen of various professionals who have business with the lurid Count. There are also two sweet young things who plan to wed two of the gentlemen . . . or who both should have been their brides were it not for Dracula. Melanie Hampton as Wilhelmina is a superb narrator, and pretty Anastasia Higham as Lucy is a captivating innocent, so much so that you know there’s trouble ahead for that character.

The acting overall is skillful. Special mention must be made of Pam Nolte who plays three small roles and is marvelous as a madwoman who has her own little bloody games.

Screams, tombs, blood, and corpses build the tension. Garlic as well as crosses and the Christian host are used to ward off the evil vampire, and eventually to destroy his power.

This adaptation by Nathan Jeffrey, captures the terror of the novel but in reworking it for the stage the story becomes a bit confusing. There’s no question about Dracula’s evil. The machinations to destroy him, however, are less well delineated.

Through Oct. 24 at Taproot Theatre 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).

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