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The Great Lakes Theater production of ‘Dracula: The Bloody Truth’ is a bit anemic

One of the most challenging types of theater is the comical farce. In order for it to work the timing needs to be impeccable, the action fast moving, the gags played to the hilt, the pratfalls genuine and a certain flow throughout the show.

Last evening was opening night for Great Lakes Theater’s production of Le Navet Bete and John Nicholson’s “Dracula: The Bloody Truth” on stage in the intimate Hanna Theatre. Combining elements of “The 39 Steps” and “The Play That Goes Wrong” the show is a seemingly madcap “exposé” of Bram Stoker’s epic horror tale. So how did this production measure up?

In a word, it is not bad but at the same time it is not as great as it could be. For one, it is quite long with over an hour for the first act with a fifteen minute intermission and very close to an hour for the second act. Rather than seamlessly flow it more or less just bumps along in the night never really catching a rhythm that is indicative of true comic farce. The cast of four try their best at playing the thirty-one odd (and they are odd indeed) characters. The costuming changes misadventures are all part of the gags but it seems to get overused a bit.

It begins with the very dry Professor Van Helsing (Lynn Robert Berg) at center stage, “Tonight I need you to understand the difference between fiction and the truth. Tonight you will discover that Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is in fact… fact.” Thus begins the comical tale of Van Helsing’s pursuit of the blood sucking monster (no, not his attorney). Traveling through the UK and Europe, Helsing with the aid of three “amateur” actors stage a “dramatic” theatrical production with the hope of establishing, once and for all, The Bloody Truth!

The cast consists of the aforementioned Berg who is joined by GLT regulars Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Jodi Dominick and Joe Wegner. With opening night it was hard to judge an honest response from the audience that was packed with friends and fellow actors whooping it up at the slightest provocation. With my jaundiced eye, the funniest character I found was the stuffed cat. Needless to say, the show was not without its moments and the second act seemed to get its comic legs with a race to the end.

Hopefully with upcoming shows this production will hit its mark and be more enjoyable than its opening. There is a fine line between comical and silly. With a little work on timing this balance can be achieved. As in all live theater, it is a work in progress. If you are looking for a safe Halloween type show to take the family, this one would work well.

Great Lakes Theater’s production of “Dracula: The Bloody Truth” will be on stage in the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square, 2067 E. 14th Street, Cleveland, Ohio through November 5, 2023. For more information and to order tickets go to or call (216) 241-6000.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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