Countess Dracula gives a Black warrior woman spin on Bram Stoker | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Countess Dracula gives a Black warrior woman spin on Bram Stoker 

A little more defiance of the genre would give this Otherworld Theatre show more bite.

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click to enlarge Countess Dracula

Countess Dracula

Courtesy of the artist

I low-key love how Otherworld Theatre fully explores the concept of "theater nerd." A recent Nintendo-covered update on Richard III was enjoyable and crunchy around the edges; it regularly offers Improvised Dungeons and Dragons. Otherworld is absolutely niche, but it's absolutely itself.

This is why I went into Countess Dracula with a huge appetite for sweaty-palmed, glasses-on geekery. Conceptually, the show fits right in with the current zeitgeist of Black, southern gothics, a la Lemonade's shadowy and foreboding moments and Angela Bassett in American Horror Story: Coven. Here, Countess Dracula is Black, loaded, and descended from African warrior women who licked the blood of men off their weapons when the wars were won. It's the image we need in 2019.

The divine, the demonic, and the delectable all emerge in this Am'ber D. Montgomery and Nick Izzo adaptation (directed by Montgomery), but my biggest problem is with how tightly the playwrights cling to the source material, all at the cost of the show's pacing and possibilities. A looser grip on Bram Stoker's long (and sometimes meandering) bloodbath might've given the characters—played by a devoted and fiercely talented cast—more room for development and clearer desires. It would have allowed the writers to use more of the research they so obviously embarked upon. While I understand that fanfic requires a steady stream of familiar symbols, this is a plot worthy of some serious genre defiance. I'm thirsty for a little bit more.  v

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