Way Off Broadway's "Dracula--A Halloween Haunt" is about the closest thing to a really bad horror movie that you'll find on stage these days--you know, the type of low-budget, messy flick where you might see the monster skulking around in crummy sneakers, and where there's an enthusiastic but wholly unconvincing screamer in every other scene.
This production--to use a cliche, and this production is full of them--is so awful it's almost good. Checking out Luciano di Visconti hamming it up as Dracula, playing him like Elvira's long-lost cousin from Transylvania, can be a hoot.
There's some fun to be found in Meera Naras' Lucy, too, especially when she rolls her eyes goofily in lusty appreciation of the Count's pointy-toothed charisma. And Christopher Holmes as fly-chewing Renfield out-camps camp; he has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
But all in all, "Dracula," the first production by the semi-pro WOB troupe, is just plain bad. The acting, for the most part, would fit in with some high school holiday show, where miscues and stumbling pacing are to be expected and somehow add to the charm. This "Dracula" is a quasi-comedy, and maybe director Tony Reverditto thinks the sloppiness adds to its charm. But this is really pushing it.
Then there's the script. John Mattera has revamped the old legend by having Dracula come to Connecticut (misspelled in the program, by the way) for some "American food" and to seduce/bite Lucy, who reminds him of a conquest from his glory days in Europe.
The "American food" line isn't bad, but to get a sharper picture of the comedy's level, check these out: When it's time to kill the Count and Van Helsing (Roy Fussell) says to bring stakes, Renfield fires back, "I'll bring the salad," and when Renfield plunges his stake home, he shouts, "This is a stake-out." You get the idea.
Can WOB's "Dracula" be recommended as a Halloween diversion? Sure, if you don't expect too much. There are enough bloody shrieks and cape-twisting flourishes to spook kids, and the jokes (as well as the bumbling) may have some parents giggling. One last note: WOB asks anyone attending the Halloween night performance to come in costume. "DRACULA--A HALLOWEEN HAUNT"
A Way Off Broadway production of John Mattera's play. Directed by Tony Reverditto. With Luciano di Visconti, Shawn Smyth, Sandy Silver, Malcolm Silver, Dave Judy, Meera Naras, Holly Hayes, Richard Cummings, Scott Williams, Roy Fussell, Mark Shawn Thayer and Christopher Holmes. Sets by Shawn Smyth and Mark Thayer. Lighting by Dave Judy and Mark Thayer. Plays tonight at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 9 p.m. at 1058 E. First St., Santa Ana. Tickets: $8 and $5. (714) 547-8997.