Given the timing of L.A. Theatre Works production of “Bram Stoker's Dracula” – it will be presented at 3 p.m. on Valentine's Day at Tacoma's Pantages Theater – no wonder cast members are playing up romantic aspects of the story.
“On Valentine's Day, it's perfect,” jokes Renton native Skip Pipo who will play Dracula's creepy sidekick, Renfield. “It's kind of a gothic romance with elements of horror, obviously. Dracula's kind of in search of love. He's an immortal being. He's never gonna die, and he doesn't want to spend that time alone any more. I think it's the romance that makes the story enduring.”
First stop on Valentine's Day, check. But what will likely stand out more about L.A. Theatre Works interpretation of Stoker's classic, 1897 novel – adapted by Charles Morey - is the way it pays homage to a lost art form. The troupe specializes in “audio plays,” stage productions presented in the style of radio dramas that were widely enjoyed in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, before their popularity dwindled during the Golden Age of Television.
“People used to sit in their living rooms and gather around the radio and listen rather than passively watching TV,” Pipo said. “You had to involve your imagination. ... In fact, we encourage audiences to look away or even close their eyes at certain parts of the show and just listen.”
Not that theatergoers will want to keep their eyes closed the entire time this weekend. The actors will all be dressed in costume, and there will be special effects. A little blood, anyone? But mostly, the presentation is dedicated to invoking the spirit of the theater of the mind.
“We have live sound effects being done on tables on either side of the stage,” Pipo explained. “So we'll have doors opening and closing and necks cracking and shirts being ripped off. Dracula slices himself so that his blood can be drank. All of those sound effects are done with celery, lettuce, bananas – various things that we carry with us. So yeah, it's in the tradition of old radio dramas and how they were presented to live audiences.”
Tickets are still available, with prices ranging from $19 to $69. They may be purchased online at www.broadwaycenter.org, or in person from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at the Broadway Center box office, located at 901 Broadway.