Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 15, 2022

REVIEW: Berkshire Theater Group, "Dracula"

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
August 11 - 27, 2022
by Shera Cohen

Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware
Berkshire Theatre group is billing its production of "Dracula" as magical. Indeed, it is in many respects, particularly the multitude of technical, almost magical, tasks. The backstage work of true masters in their fields of direction, sound, costumes, scene design, and lighting, together make "Dracula" a worthy production.

There is no point rehashing Bram Stoker's gothic tale of a macabre and mysterious character at the center of the plot; he sleeps by day, awakens at night, slinks around dusty mansions, dresses in black, and has a fear of mirrors and crucifixes. What to do about Count Dracula? There it is -- the entire plot.

The play is very much an ensemble piece. Dracula is not the star, although young actor Mitchell Winter gives life (death?) to his portrayal of this creepy, dark creature. For the most part, those actors who carry the story are BTG "regulars". David Adkins plays Dr. Seward as an intelligent man at odds with himself between what is real and unreal. Jennifer Van Dyke comes on strong as Professor Van Helsing. She is a fine actor however a bit of advice would be to tone down her character's physical and vocal exuberance. Matt Sullivan presents his Renfield as a crazed man muddled in a mixture of sanity and insanity. More and more theatres choose color-blind and gender-blind casting. I first noted this in the theatres in the Berkshires. Bravo to them.  

Let's get back to the magic which hits the audience smack in their faces before the play begins. Sound Designer Scott Killian rings dark jangly whispering music as the audience is seated, during intermission, and throughout several moments in the play. One would expect that a Lighting Designer would have the task of creating a lightning bolt on occasion. But Daniel J. Kotlowitz is a genius, again from the first moment the curtain opens to the last seconds. No cartoon-like shadows here, Kotlowitz develops drama with a capital D through slivers of lighting on a very dark set. Oh yes, the set. Bill Clarke, Scenic Designer, does wonders on a two-level stage, as well as indoors and outdoors; it's haunting. Of course, a director has his thumb on every aspect, backstage and onstage; in this case the keen work of David Auburn.

For all of its excellent points, I wonder why "Dracula" was mounted by BTG during a summer month. Yes, BTG productions are primarily in July and August. Yet, the Colonial continues up to December.