It’s tough to not admire the spunky enthusiasm of a startup troupe tackling a classic with its own adaptation (Bram Stoker’s novel is out of copyright). It’s also tough to not notice the many shortcomings evident in this particular undertaking.
Jennifer Keller and Lauren Davidson of the eponymous company are producers, adapters, set designers and stars.
Their script is a pretty much by-the-numbers affair. All your favorite lines are there. (“I never drink … wine.”) Their polishing adds a patina of feminism, where Mina Murray’s career as a teacher is just as important, maybe more, than her fiance’s jurisprudence labors. There’s also a soupcon of LGBT visibility.
While budget-challenged in execution, the set design is ambitiously versatile, offering multiple levels and playing spaces in the very small theater.
As actors, Keller fares better than Davidson. Her Mina is indeed an independent woman and Keller, with wise eyes and plucky pragmatism, infuses her with a wonderful soulfulness.
Davidson’s Lucy Westenra, who should be a saucy coquette playing with three willing suitors, spends the first half of the play delivering flat line readings, only sparking some life into her character near her undead end.
As the object of their affliction, Steffanos Xanthoudakis brings tall, bald and an unspecific European accent to a Dracula that is frequently compelling. It is unfortunate that the use of fangs causes him and any other actor so equipped to lisp a lot.
Promisingly, one of Dracula’s brides is a former prince.
Unfortunately, Jaime San Felippo’s performance is so mincingly camp that there is no menace in him. Traditional marriage-style brides Becky Hirschfeld and Angelina Liu are far more effective in their predations.
Hirschfeld is also the director, and keeps things moving.
Perhaps too much. There’s clever staging in Lucy’s engagement story, but the endless resetting of scenes in the confined space keeps the production from gaining any true momentum. Kudos must go to fight choreographer Bryce Byerley for some welcome moments of excitement.
Among the stable of good-guy guy characters (Michael Glenn, Adam Vogel, Byerley again, Donny Goglio and Dene Larson) there is rampaging adequacy at most, fraught with nerves and some out of control hair acting.
The best work of the evening comes from Alexia Staniotes, whose female Renfield is a brash comic seer. It’s a shame she is never reunited with Dracula. What music these children of the night might make.
Presented by Kellerson Productions
Where: Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; closes May 31
Contact: (415) 882-9100, www.sheltontheater.org