When Jennifer and I went to see Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike this past Sunday, we happened to notice a flyer in the playbill advertising the next season of the Alley Theatre. Reading it, I saw that one of the first plays they had listed was Dracula. This was the original stage play based off of Stoker’s novel, which became the basis for the 1931 classic film starring Bela Lugosi and the 1977 film starring Frank Langella.
As I’m a fan of vampire stories and Dracula is my favorite vampire novel, I figured it would be fun to see. However, I then noted that the flyer said the production features “the extraordinary designs of Edward Gorey”. At that, my heart sank a little.
If you’re not familiar with Edward Gorey, he’s a dark and macabre artist who I personally know best for having animated the intro/outro for the old PBS series Mystery! (and later Masterpiece Mystery).
I used to have a beautiful hardcover edition of Dracula with art by Greg Hildebrandt, best known for his work on the original Star Wars poster. The artwork in the book was a mixture of penciled drawings and painted works, with models playing each of the characters. (There was a credit list at the end of the book.) It was my favorite edition of the book, and to this day I wish I knew what the hell happened to it.
After that disappeared, my parents found a new hardcover edition of Dracula for me, with art by Edward Gorey. I was thankful for the gift, but it just wasn’t the same as the Hildebrandt version. I admit I tend to be a very visual person, and I really enjoyed how the Hildebrandt edition’s artwork not only showed the characters, but showed them in the different scenes throughout the novel. By contrast, the Gorey edition only had simple cartoonish character portraits.
I still have the Gorey edition, but I’ve since picked up a new hardcover copy with artwork by Becky Cloonan. Both Cloonan and Hildebrandt illustrate the novel’s events as opposed to doing simple portraits, but where they differ is that instead of using models and going for realism like Hildebrandt, Cloonan goes for a graphic novel style. It works very well for the book, and the book in fact ends up with far more illustrations, with the typeset sometimes going around the art. I have to say, I’m really digging this edition, about as much as the Hildebrandt edition.
As far as the Alley Theatre production goes, I’m still very undecided whether I want to go or not. While I’d like to see the original stage play, I can’t say that it’s my favorite version of the story. On the other hand, it can’t be as bad as Dracula: A Musical Nightmare, a musical version I had seen close to twenty years ago that turned out to be a comedic play-within-a-play that was frankly a right mess. In addition, Gorey’s designs seem too cartoonish/comical for me to really take seriously. That may be unfair, however, as the only reference point I have with them regarding Dracula is that book. On the other hand, at least one of my favorite Alley actors is starring in the production.
I’ve got time to think on it, as the play doesn’t open until October. I might spring for a matinee performance or go if there’s a good offer on tickets. Otherwise, as of right now, I’m leaning towards not going. It’s a shame, but while it might be my favorite vampire novel, I don’t feel the need to go to a performance if I’m not sure I’m going to like it.