I summon all of you on my darkest secret.
Abrianna Van Helsing
How many more stories do we need to know about the infamous, some say romantic, figure of horror lore? What makes Dracula so cool and still the most talked about figure? Ever since writer Irish writer Abraham “Bram” Stoker came out with the novel back in 1897, Dracula has remained a permanent fixture in movies, television, literature, and the stage.
How about a story told from the POV of Dracula’s nemesis Dr. Van Helsing? Better. How about an all-female cast playing the roles performed by men? Now, there’s a great story to be told! Produced by Sarah Mann and Corrin Evans and directed by Mann and Katie Rediger, these women created a heart thumping and haunting story about, what else? It’s about love with a lot of desire and passion thrown in. Evans and Rediger wrote a well-written story layered with love, passion, and fiery desire.
Nestled in Van Nuys, the Vatican Banquet Hall space is highly decorated with Transylvania-esque swagger. A spiral staircase, the Countess Dracula’s harem, includes Rachele Donofrio, Taylor Marie, Alicia Salvadori, Carolina Saverin, and understudy Jennifer Harrison, worked the room wearing tight fitting lingerie while spinning plates on a stick. In the center, there’s a
higher-than-the-sky contraptions, such as a triangular shaped apparatus, ropes, lit hoops, and silks flowing down from the ceiling.
Out of the darkness comes Abrianna Van Helsing (Rediger does an amazing job) greets the guests below who enjoy a three-course meal created by Anne Apra Events and Ronen Levy Events. Music director and percussionist Jarryd Elias leads the three-member band, harpist Alison Bjorkedal, keyboardist Dylan Price and violin player Chihsuan Yang, guide the women to the countess’ castle.
Yang’s playing is very erotic and velvet smooth.
Abrianna speaks beautifully about her lover, Belovḗd (the ultra-flexible Lala Araki) who works her magic with those silks draped over her lithe body. Pole dancers can learn a lot from her. Just saying! They accept a dinner invitation to dine with the countess. The Countess (Frankie Tan is simply mesmerizing) slides in. Instead of wearing the well recognizable black cape we’re accustomed to, she dons a tan floral print with a red and sparkly decked-out collar, underneath revealing clothing. She also craves for Belovḗd and puts herself in between Van Hesling and Belovḗd, also known as The Lover, Araki does an excellent job in a non-speaking role. She successfully uses her body and face to emit what she feels inside.
The Harem comes between Abrianna, Belovḗd and the Countess. They all sip blood from a golden chalice. Belovḗd drinks and transforms into a huge beacon of light. She now belongs to the Countess. Abrianna doesn’t give up and rages against the Countess to get her boo back safe, where she belongs. And that is just for the first 90 minutes.
The real-life guests are given a reprieve to eat and drink and converse among themselves. The story continues to evolve into a spectacular wonder. Great food, evocative music, savory cocktails and being in good company, 10 people at the dinner table, get cozy. As it was my first experience in dinner theater, all I can say is that I can get used to this! Madmann’s Playground production delivers one hell of a magnificent show. They tossed aside the formulaic depiction of Count Dracula and shaped him into a cleverly, modern time female boss. It works damn well.
WHAT: Van Helsing’s Dracula
WHERE: The Vatican Banquet Hall, 6913 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, CA 91405
WHEN: Saturday nights, Nov. 11 and 18 (6 – 9 p.m.)
WHY: So much fun!
HOW MUCH: Tickets Start at $225