Rafi Mittlefehldt’s Journal
2 October 7:55 p.m. Upper West Side:
Left Williamsburg at 7:00 p.m., arriving with five minutes to spare; should have arrived earlier, but MTA train schedules suggestions at best.
Destination was an old church, rented out for a variety of obscure and unrelated uses. Was directed upstairs, to wide, high-ceilinged gathering room presently occupied by a few dozen people chatting amiably away. Some louder than others, but I am unfamiliar with local custom.
Gothic knickknacks and decorations press along the walls, surrounding an old grand piano at one end and a small bed in the middle. I am unsure what is set and what is seating. But – aha! – they appear to be one and the same, which I deduce from the sight of a couple enjoying drinks in a mismatched set of old, lavishly upholstered chairs.
We are called to attention. The show, a comedic and immersive version of Dracula, is to begin. The timing pleases me; my friend has arrived late, being similarly misled by the MTA. A bald and bearded man called Renfield, a.k.a. Paul Kite, explains the “rules”: The entire arena is indeed ours for the roaming, and we shall intermingle with the cast. As the actors move about, so must we all, to ensure a spot to see.
We are encouraged to drink – even, it seems, to the point of inebriation. There is a makeshift bar in the back. I wish not to offend, and it is for this reason alone that I acquire a drink so soon after Renfield’s pronouncement.
Dracula is progressing swiftly and well. This production takes not itself nor its audience seriously, and is heavy on the comedy, which is not disagreeable to me. Yet I find myself surprisingly invested in the story as well, which even through the humor and anachronistic elements (Lucy Westenra checking Facebook on her iPhone within the first few lines), manages to resurrect shades of the wonderful creepiness of the novel I read in high school English, half a lifetime ago.
I and everyone around me are three drinks in. Perhaps four. Is this the design, to have us all confuse intoxication for enjoyment? But, no, for I’d rather be here than at an Upper West Side bar.
It is an interesting reversal of Drunk Shakespeare, another of Three Day Hangover’s endeavors, in which an actor performs in a Shakespearian play after drinking to excess. Here, though, the players remain sober, which requires nimble improvisation when interacting with drunken audience members in and around their space. They do not disappoint.
It is difficult to choose my favorite character, actor, or scene. There is Professor Van Yuengling (played by January LaVoy), the vampire huntress who has changed her name and offers free beers to the audience per a sponsorship contract; Miranda Noelle Wilson, whose bubbly Lucy makes for an equally (and horrifyingly) bubbly vampiress, after her unfortunate conversion; and a moment where Michael Borrelli’s playboy Dracula grinds with an audience member surprisingly quick on her feet, both dialogue and dance-wise.
My friend remarks that there is still much of the story left. He is not wrong. I am astonished by the swiftness of the time – nearly two hours, all standing or moving about, yet it feels like I’ve just arrived! Again I sense the uneasy certainty of the influence of supernatural forces. I find myself clutching my wine closely. This must be my last drink. I need my wits about me.
I have chugged a beer. It was handed to me by Van Yuengling, as a pretense for helping her battle Dracula. I don’t recall how it worked, and the very idea seems silly now. But, well, free beer.
It is done! Dracula is vanquished, and Lucy’s poor soul restored. How these brave men and women accomplished such without stepping on the feet of their hiccuping, slightly swaying audience is beyond me.
I am an English Churchman and I have been taught to regard such statements as in some measure heretical, but their inhuman powers cannot be denied.