, Salem, MA


October 24, 2013

Guess who's coming to dinner

In Salem Theatre Co.'s version, it's Dracula who gets an unexpected guest. And you can forget about velvet and romance; this vampire is a warrior king.

You may be able to kill Dracula with a wooden stake, but as a fictional character he will always be undead.

After debuting in 1897 in Bram Stoker’s novel, the bloodthirsty count appeared in several stage versions before being portrayed in films by Bela Lugosi (1931), Christopher Lee (1958) and Gary Oldman (1992), among others.

If you count the vampires that followed Stoker’s original, from Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” to Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, it’s hard to believe these evil beings haven’t conquered the world.

That may have been Dracula’s plan all along according to Dann Maurno, who wrote and appears in “Dracula’s Guest” at the Salem Theatre Company.

“I always wanted to play him as a warrior king, because that is what Stoker did,” Maurno said. “No adaptation preserves the idea of a warrior prince looking for his new principality.”

Dracula was bored with terrorizing the peasants around his castle, Maurno said, and wanted to attack the biggest, baddest foe he could find: the British Empire.

The historical model for Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, was a dominant warlord in Eastern Europe and in Stoker’s fantasy, in which Vlad’s military prowess is enhanced by supernatural powers.

“This is somebody who is a fantastic warrior,” Maurno said. “He’s a perfect predator and he can do something that shark in Jaws can’t do: he can damn you to hell.”

Maurno’s play is based on the first 60 pages of Stoker’s novel, where this vision of a warlord count is developed. It’s a part of the story that is usually edited in previous versions, in favor of moving the action to England, where Dracula is typically painted as more of a lover than a fighter.

“A romantic Dracula in purple velvet is something that is not a threat,” Maurno said. “I thought Coppola descended into a soupy love story, with a lot of weeping and bare nipples.” Francis Ford Coppola directed the 1992 “Dracula” movie.

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