The Rise and Fall of Dracula is based on the classic Bram Stoker vampire novel, but this is not the Dracula that you’ve come to know. Cadame Company expertly reimagines the tale by incorporating immersive elements, dance, and a clever gender reversal. Making a strong statement, Dracula is cast as a woman, and her story is far more human and relatable than any past incarnation. New additions to the narrative provide an emotional connection to the character before she is transformed from a human in ancient Greece into the vampire of legend. This Dracula is searching for a companion, a friend, someone to share her immortal life with. Relationships built in early scenes resonate through the remainder of the show, providing the audience with new insight into familiar characters. These changes bring new blood that reinvigorates the old vampire’s story and demonstrate Cadame Company’s true strengths.
Cassandra Ambe, who plays Dracula with a devilish smile and powerful presence, leads the experience. Her Dracula is unafraid to show emotion—her screams of pain echo across the small studio space; her joy spreads as she revels in her powers. Through this, the audience can feel her excitement, heartbreak, and pain as she searches for a companion on her immortal journey. Further, Ambe’s skill as a dancer brings new life to a once dead character. Multiple scenes showcase her abilities and provide emotion that dialogue cannot. Ambe is one to watch—her range is demonstrable as she excels in every scene she is in.
The extremely talented trio of Tamara Burgess, Matt Jennings, and Gerard Alvarez all help to elevate the experience as well. As Mina Murray, Abraham Van Helsing, and John Seward, respectively, their rapport feels natural and their motivations justified in their quest to end Dracula. Burgess’ Mina is a far stronger and more prominent figure than her counterpart in Stoker’s novel. Her ability to command a room and make the audience believe in her mission is a true testament to Burgess’ acting ability. As Van Helsing, Jennings provides the doctor with a calm demeanor that puts others at ease and centers the trio. Finally, Alvarez’s Seward provides some much needed comic relief as he romances Lucy before he’s forced to join the others in the heavier, darker material.
Regarding the format, the show is immersive, but has only a few interactive elements (it’s easy to see how these elements could be expanded in a larger space with a longer run time). The audience lines halls and fills rooms as the performance occurs amongst the crowd. During the opening scene, the audience fills the small hallway of the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre as if they were statues or paintings on the wall. While this space feels a little cramped for the scene, it does serve to bring the audience into the show immediately as the characters artfully move back and forth past them. In perhaps the show’s strongest scene, the audience surrounds Dracula and her Maker as she is transformed into a vampire. Told entirely through dance, the connection between the two is evident, and the emotion between these two is matched only by Dracula’s pain as she undergoes the process that grants her immortal life and untold power.
While the majority of the show felt immersive and engaging, there were a few small bumps along the road. Some of the early scenes were a little too long, reducing our time spent with some characters that we truly cared for in later scenes. Further, the show ends rather abruptly, leaving the audience questioning the larger theme of belief and power—and wanting more. Ultimately, this speaks to Cadame Company’s unique voice as I actually found myself wishing for the two-hour version of the show they had previously mentioned so I could explore more of world they had created.
The Rise and Fall of Dracula demonstrates that Cadame Company has what it takes to be a premier theater company in the Los Angeles area. With expertly combined storytelling, dance, and emotion, their reimagining of a classic offers a fresh take on a dead myth. We look forward to what they work on next, and hope they keep producing in an immersive scene always hungry for new artistry.
Tickets are available through the Fringe Festival’s official website.
For even more Fringe Festival recommendations, check out Haunting’s interviews with the creators of upcoming 2017 Fringe shows like Narcissus and Echo and Dark Arts, reviews of shows like Normal, or a full listing of notable experiences on our events page.