Hilberry’s ‘Dracula’ thrills with talent, special effects

Photo by Chuck Nowak. Santino Craven plays the title role in Bram Stoker's “Dracula” through Nov. 6 at the Hilberry Theatre. For tickets or more information, call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.edu.

Photo by Chuck Nowak. Santino Craven plays the title role in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” through Nov. 6 at the Hilberry Theatre. For tickets or more information, call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.edu.

By SUE SUCHYTA

The Hilberry Theatre’s production of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” is a must see production, even for those who aren’t fans of the vampire genre.

The acting is stellar, and the production values are on a par with a Broadway touring company. The special effects alone deserve a Wilde Award nomination, the local version of the Tonys.

Charles Morey, who skillfully adapted the novel for the stage, proves to be a strong director as well, delivering a mesmerizing story free from any – pardon the phrase – “dead time.”

When a Transylvanian count goes to London in search of fresh prey, it becomes a race against time for the protagonists to catch him and kill him before he can destroy the lives of more innocents.

Santino Craven as Dracula continues to prove his versatility as an actor in a role that can be nervously laughed at if not played with the skill and finesse he displays. The role has been parodied so often in our society that to sell it as a serious and sinister force is an accomplishment itself.

Craven creates a character that is sophisticated yet suppressed, a count barely hanging on to civility by a thread when the beast in him longs to lash out and satisfy his blood lust with a violent rending of his prey.

James Kern as Renfield turns in his strongest performance to date as the tortured soul who drops numerous hints to his unwitting keepers.

Michael Phillip Thomas is very believable as the driven Van Helsing, Dracula’s nemesis, with Michael Manocchio as Harker and Kyle Mitchell Johnson as Seward equally strong in their roles as they support Van Helsing in his pursuit of Dracula.

Mary Sansone is outstanding in the demanding role of Mina, and Antonia LeChe’ proves she can deliver as Lucy, one of the most demanding roles she has performed at the Hilberry.

The talented cast also includes Ernest Bentley as Arthur, Tiffany Michelle Thompson as Mrs. Westerna, Nick Stockwell as Capt. Swales, Brandon Wright and Cody Robinson in multiple ensemble roles, and the trio of Devri Chism, Wesley Cady and Breayre Tender as other-worldly brides and peasants.

Stephanie Baugher’s set design is both elegant and clever, and allows the plot to move seamlessly and swiftly.

Sammi Geppert’s costume designs add to the other-worldly spookiness of the undead, as well as capturing the Victorian era with its juxtaposition of elegance and sensual repression.

Mario Raymond’s lighting design, Valerie Frawley’s sound design and the special effects are stunning and spectacular.

Remaining perfomances are 7 p.m. Nov. 3, 8 p.m. Nov. 4 and 5 and 3 p.m. Nov. 5 and 6 at the theater, 4743 Cass on the Wayne State campus in Detroit.

Tickets are $25 to $30, with $10 student rush tickets with valid identification the day of the performance.

For tickets or more information, call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddance.wayne.edu.

‘BOOK OF MORMON’ RETURNS TO THE FISHER

The musical comedy “The Book of Mormon” returns to Detroit for a two-week run Nov. 1 to 13 at the Fisher Theatre.

The winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score, runs 8 p.m. Nov. 1 to 5 and 9 to 12; 2 p.m. Nov. 5, 6, 12 and 13; and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6 and 13.

The satire follows two Mormon missionaries to a remote Ugandan village where their earnest attempts are overshadowed by the local concern with AIDS, famine and an oppressive warlord.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, 800-982-2787, or online at broadwayindetroit.com or ticketmaster.com.

For more information about the show, go to BookofMormonTheMusical.com.

OBTC TO PRESENT ‘BOY GETS GIRL’

The Open Book Theatre Company will present Rebecca Gilman’s “Boy Gets Girl” in January, taking the place of “Animals out of Paper.”

The show, written in 2000, will be directed by Topher Payne, and will run Jan. 13 to 28 at the OBTC, 1621 West Road in Trenton.

After Theresa, a writer, goes on two dates with Tony, a computer guru, she realizes he isn’t the one for her, and declines to see him again. He, however, is relentless, and continues to insinuate himself into her life.

The police are able to do nothing to keep him from interacting with her, and she eventually takes drastic steps to escape him. The show looks at stalking, sexism and romantic pursuit.

For tickets, call 734-288-7753 or go to openbooktc.com.

ACTING OUT PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS ‘THE LIVING LIBRARY’

Four classic childhood stories will captivate families in “The Living Library,” with “The Giving Tree,” “Stone Soup,” “Click Clack Moo,” and “Where the Wild Things Are” performed at 7 p.m. Nov. 4, 5, 11 and 12, and 3 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Royal Majestic Theatre inside Trillium Academy, 15740 Racho Blvd. in Taylor.

Directed by Kelly Lomas of Trenton, the show features a cast of children age 4 to 12 years old.

Tickets are $15, with a $3 discount for students age 13 to 18 with valid identification. Tickets are available online for $10, at actingoutdownriver.com/jazzhands.

For more information go to actingoutdownriver.com.