Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

"The Transylvanian Clockworks" brings to mind author Michael Dibdin's shocking "The Last Sherlock Holmes Story." A revisionist tale about the 19th-century London detective, Dibdin's novel underscores Holmes' eccentricities and misogyny against a backdrop of Victorian morality and the slaughtering of women by Jack the Ripper.

The book upends assumptions about iconic heroes and villains and explores the psychological underpinnings of familiar characters in the context of a peculiarly repressed era.

The same thing happens in the savvy "The Transylvanian Clockworks," the first show in Balagan Theatre's inaugural season. Staged by Charles Waxberg and written by Don Nigro, "Clockworks" rejiggers Bram Stoker's Dracula story, forcing the audience to question what we think we know about the Romanian count, the women he affects and his enemies.

Expect the unexpected: Jonathan Harker (Chad Evans), the British businessman supposedly traumatized at Dracula's castle, sits in a mental institution instead of Stoker's jabbering Renfield. Tight-lipped Harker frus- trates Dr.Seward (Jake Groshong),
who turns to his mentor, Van Hel-sing (powerful work by Richard Clairmont).

Van Helsing insists a vampire is in their midst and notes that, perhaps not coincidentally, Jack the Ripper is committing heinous crimes. Yet there is a disconcerting note of bluster in Van Helsing's conclusions, underscored by his flashes of brutality.

You can't quite buy this Van Helsing on tradition alone. Nor Harker, whose psychiatric problems could concern a joyless marriage. Nor Seward, who has sexual ties to three fascinating, frustrated women (Cathleen O'Malley, Samara Lerman, Kaitie Warren, all wonderful) who arouse Dracula's interest. Nor Dracula (a compelling Roy Stanton) himself, whose seductive powers and strange boxes from Transylvania might be signs a monster has arrived — or perhaps a different kind of lover.

Waxberg's production is sharp, probing and intensely erotic. This is a "Dracula" that teases shadowy intimacy and obsession from the myth, turns everything on its head and reveals a surprising new world. Tom Keogh:

Transylvanian Clockworks
by Don Nigro

October 5th through 21st, 2006
Review from The Seattle Times


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