Nosferatu: The Morning of My Death
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 15, 2007
The story of Dracula (as Bram Stoker originally called him) or Nosferatu (as he's known in the F.W. Murnau silent film classic) is so entrenched in our contemporary mindset that we can typically recite its main elements by rote. How do you make something this familiar scary again? Ask Edward Elefterion and Stanton Wood, the creators of Nosferatu: The Morning of My Death, a classy and, yes, often terrifying new stage adaptation that looks sure to be one of the breakout hits of this year's Midtown International Theatre Festival.
This is technically the second half of a planned full-length version of Nosferatu (Elefterion informs the audience in a curtain speech that the whole show is expected to debut this October; watch for that). So the story here begins with the vampire Nosferatu's journey from Transylvania to London, where he will attempt to seduce and win Mina Harker, the wife of Jonathan Harker, the young man who has been tracking him and who understands the secret of his evil. As the play begins, Mina is having hallucinations (premonitions?) of Nosferatu's imminent attack, and her best friend's husband Arthur Westenra forces her to stay in the insane asylum that he runs, mistakenly believing that she will be safe there.
The plot quickly turns into a race against time: will Harker return to London in time to rescue his wife, or will Nosferatu get to her first?
The fact that we know how the story will end doesn't diminish in the least the suspense and sheer excitement that playwright Wood and director Elefterion conjure. Using a sort of "story theatre" approach in which the actors narrate the tale as well as act out its key moments, with minimal costuming and set and just a few props, the company finds the essence of what's really scary in this legend, and communicates it boldly and deftly. The sequence in which the crew members of the ship that Nosferatu is traveling on are murdered one by one is starkly chilling, even though it consists simply of some narration and sound effects. And the killing of the undead Lucy (Arthur's wife, Nosferatu's first female victim) is spectacular, using a theatrical device that heretofore has always seemed trite to me with dazzling impact.
The cast of six work near miracles to portray dozens of characters. Matt W. Cody, smartly used very sparingly in the title role, is terrific (and his makeup, by Courtney Daily, is top-notch). David Miceli as Westenra and Danny Ashkenasi as Renfield, Harker's bug-eating superior, are especially excellent (in those roles as well as in many others); completing the ensemble are Paul Daily as an earnest Harker, Emily Hartford as Lucy, and Jenna Kalinowski as Mina.