Those who have seen the Hollywood films "Bram Stoker's Dracula" with Keanu Reeves and the even more recent "Van Helsing" should enter the Albritton-Mayer Center for the Arts theater knowing that this is the "old school" version of Dracula without the action-adventure focus, special effects or other elements favored by the movie industry.
"It's the original play," said Mike Marsh, director. "Bela Legosi came from Hungary to do this play on Broadway, and then he did the movie. That's how he became known as Dracula."
While Hollywood films generally have latched on to the count's penchant for sucking blood, Marsh said the play is "not gory, bloody or obscene" but is full of tension and suspense, "kind of like 'The Twilight Zone,' and that's what it was meant to be. It was the later films that were more bloody and scary.
"The original play is about good versus evil," he continued. "These are real men, fighting real evil with primarily their faith in God. Don't expect superheros. This is about a father, a friend and a love trying to protect Lucy. They're not trying to save the world, they're trying to protect their daughter, their lover and their friend. So it's very personal. That's the biggest difference. This is not an action-adventure. This is a dramatic play - with a few twists."
Many will be surprised to find that Dracula's Transylvanian castle is not shown to the audience but only mentioned in the play. "This takes place outside of London," Marsh said.
Even those who are familiar with the original play are in for some surprises, however.
"We've made a couple of adjustments to the play that we hope the audience will find interesting," Marsh said, although he declined to be more specific. "It's a surprise. We have a little surprise at the beginning and a surprise at the end that are not in the original play. Everybody's really excited about it - we weren't going to do it unless everybody agreed."
Marsh said after discussing his ideas with the cast, "they thought it was a good idea - something a little different. We hope the audience will enjoy it."
Parts of the play will be familiar to all, however, including the character Renfield who is played by SLT veteran Bryan Parker. "This is the wild character that is always eating the flies - the slave of Dracula that slips in and out of sanity."
Although it isn't bloody and isn't scary so much as full of suspense, "I would not bring small children," he advised. "It is a drama, and I probably wouldn't bring small children. But I think anybody over seven or eight is going to be OK."
Over half of the eight roles are played by people who are new to the stage, Marsh said. Including David Patton as Dracula, Tyler Morrison as Dr. Seward, Savannah Raymond as Lucy and Marc McElveen as John Harker.
"I'm thrilled with the way the cast has come along, especially with the newcomers," Marsh said. "The veterans have been such a help to me by sharing their experience." Marsh also credited the people helping the production by working backstage - Charles Palmer, Heather Palmer, Amanda Robertson, Barb Shriver and John and Theresa Fisk who designed and built the set.
"We have two high school kids who came off the street - Kristin Hopper and Dustin Chidester - and they've become our main backstage crew," Marsh said.
Dianne Jarvis is the assistant director.
"They do a lot of work, too," he said of the entire off-stage crew. "You can't do a play without them."
The play is only scheduled for Halloween weekend with 7:30 p.m. shows on Oct. 28, 29 and 30, and a 2 p.m. show on Oct. 31.
"The only place you can get tickets are at Collins Music or at the door," Marsh said. Tickets are priced at $6 in advance for non-members, and $7 at the door.