Renfield | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Renfield, WNEP Theater. This late-night Halloween offering is less a full-fledged production than a classroom exercise. Conceived and directed by Jonathan Pitts, it sets out to expand upon the story of Bram Stoker's Dracula from the viewpoint of Renfield, the spider-chomping lunatic who assists the bloodthirsty count's invasion of England. At its best the show is genuinely eerie, designed in nightmarish black and white by Pitts. Spooky tableaux (some employing puppets) depict the vampire enslaving the madman through a series of gruesome blood rituals before finally, inevitably killing him. (Actor Ron Kuzava's rodentlike, bald-headed, pointy-eared Dracula seems inspired by Klaus Kinski's portrayal of the character in Werner Herzog's 1979 movie Nosferatu the Vampyre--itself an homage to F.W. Murnau's silent-film treatment.) The mood of morbid eroticism is enhanced by Pitts's creative use of recorded music, in particular the haunting strains of an Armenian wind instrument called a duduk.

But the clunky, pedestrian dialogue (developed through improvisation by the six-person cast) wavers between treating the story seriously and satirically. The lackluster lines and cliched plotting are made worse by the actors' poorly paced, underrehearsed delivery; in the horror genre, timing is critical. If Pitts and his company want to bring this project to its full potential, they'd better sit down and write a real script.

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