Encore Michigan

Ringwald’s ‘Dracula’ is bitingly good fun

Review June 26, 2024 Kent Straith

FERNDALE, MI–When seeing a show at the Ringwald Theater in Ferndale, it’s always important to level set your expectations. The last piece I turned in for Encore was a rave about a traditional staging of a classic Broadway musical.

That is not a thing that happens here. If you ever find yourself having the thought “you know who’d like this show at the Ringwald? Grandma!, I beg you to reconsider. Or, alternatively, Grandma sounds like a pretty cool hang, and she should email me. My grandmas, God rest both their souls, would not have cared for Dracula: A Comedy Of Terrors, but they both taught Sunday School, so it is what it is.

I like visiting the Ringwald (inside Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale) because on one hand, you never know what new thing awaits you, but on the other, you have a pretty decent idea who’ll be telling the story. Of the five cast members presenting this horrific tale, I’ve seen four of them in the last year in other Ringwald shows, and there’s something comforting and welcoming about a semi-regular repertory company. DACOT, which is an acronym I just made up to avoid typing the entire name of the show again, is precisely in the strike zone of something you’d expect here: Off-color without being dirty, exhibitionist without being lurid, and just an all around gay romp.

The plot details here don’t really matter. It’s a more-or-less faithful telling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (emphasis on ‘less’), and the only reason we’re here is to find out what the Ringwald crew is going to do with the material. DACOT is a new play of less than a year, but seems to be wildly successful, and is slated for production at over thirty venues in the next year. As I’ve mentioned in past reviews, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of parody, and this work is foundationally a parody, but I liked it more than other parodies I’ve seen (Complete Works of Shakespeare, Forbidden Broadway, etc.) because it’s only spoofing one thing, rather than a genre, so there’s room for the jokes to breathe. The action is frenetic, but the jokes are on point, and as a rule of thumb, if you’re ever on the fence about whether or not something is funny, defer to the wisdom of the crowd. This crowd LOVED this show.

With a cast this small, it’s hard to single out anyone in particular, but Garett Michael Harris as Dracula actually has the least time on stage. But, as Michael Keaton is fond of saying “the best way to ruin a Beetlejuice movie is too much Beetlejuice”, and the same is true of Dracula. Even when played as an omni-sexual force of nature in leather hot pants, the Count needs to have a certain air of mystery, and Harris, whose work was really moving and sweet in this past spring’s Beautiful Thing, is spectacularly raucous and no holds barred. Harris plays Dracula with an obvious and heavy debt to Tim Curry’s Frank-N-Furter. It’s also a pleasure to see Melissa Beckwith and Miles Bond back at the Ringwald after their delightful work in Jingle Babs, the 2023 Christmas show. Rashi Sarwar as Lucy is a first time experience for me, but their work in the carriage scene alone is worth the price of admission. Joe Bailey, this company’s founder and Artistic Director returns to his stage in the dual role of Mina Murray and Jean Van Helsing, and is side-splitting in both. Joe’s blurb in the program says he has attempted to retire from acting, and his presence here means it was unsuccessful. I hope to see him in many future failures for his retirement to stick.

Overall, I liked this show a lot, and I don’t like parodies. So, if you like parodies, you’ll probably love this show. Bravo to the entire crew at the Ringwald for a fine and funny capper to a great season!

(Dracula: A Comedy Of Terrors is playing at the Ringwald Theatre on 9 Mile Road in Ferndale, now through July 1. Inquire about tickets at www.simpletix.com or by calling the Ringwald at 248-545-5545)

Week of 7/15/2024

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