Arts & Entertainment

Synetic Theater’s ‘Dracula’ Returns Thirsty for More

Even more appropriate than the seasonal timing of Synetic Theater’s “Dracula” is the man behind the fangs. Dan Istrate, who plays the lead vamp in this adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic, calls none other than — wait for it — the Romanian territory of Transylvania his home. Dracula

Even more appropriate than the seasonal timing of Synetic Theater’s “Dracula” is the man behind the fangs. Dan Istrate, who plays the lead vamp in this adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic, calls none other than — wait for it — the Romanian territory of Transylvania his home.

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DAN ISTRATE stars as the lead vamp in Synetic Theater’s “Dracula.” (Photo: Graeme B. Shaw)

But don’t expect him to ramble on about identifying with a character he grew up with. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1989 Romanian Revolution that Istrate even heard of this so-called “Dracula” fellow.

“There was influx of Western culture in Transylvania after the fall of communism. Romanians knew nothing about vampires before then, so when we first heard the myth that stemmed out of our own backyard, we thought it was actually kind of funny,” said Istrate, who recently found himself debating with a friend about whether or not a Romanian has ever played the role of Dracula.

Arguments aside, one thing off the table for debate is Synetic’s hands-down, mesmerizing ability to make its stage come alive through seamless, fluid movement, courtesy resident choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili.

However, this Halloween isn’t the first time the Arlington-based theater has taken a stab at the sensually-haunting tale. Synetic’s artistic director and founder, Paata Tsikurishvili, wore the cape in the theater’s 2005 run of “Dracula.”

“The details and nuances are still there, but there are different dynamics, as well as improved fight sequences,” said Paata.

Improved is an understatement. Fight choreographer Ben Cunis steps things off with a perfected war scene, during which the then-human Istrate originally becomes possessed.

How the tables have turned, as Istrate previously played the demon that inhibits Dracula in the 2005 production. Perhaps it’s the control that does it for him, previously having played Mephisto, the devil in “Faust.”

“Like Mephisto, you have complete freedom when you’re playing a supernatural character. And as a man, playing Dracula gave me the ultimate freedom — I could have anyone, anybody I wanted,” said Istrate.

And he did, along with their blood.

 

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CO-STARS Roger Payano and Mary Werntz share the stage in “Dracula.” (Photo: Graeme B. Shaw)

Though one would think Dracula’s wives — played by Stacy Jackson, Irina Koval and Catalina Lavalle — would’ve provide enough seduction to fulfill his thirst. Come-hither looks outfitted in slinky red dresses times three, and it’s doubtful the actresses didn’t have every man in the audience wrapped around their finger.

Take heed, prudes. Paata said whether viewers are willing to admit or not, they’re all looking for a bit of sexuality with a side of violence.

“There’s something about [vampires’] power we like as humans. We may keep it hidden, but we all like sex, and erotic things, and maybe we’re into something even a little bit weird, but we keep it in our hearts,” said Paata, who went onto to explain that as far as the violent nature of vampires, viewers just want to be entertained, and well, violence seems to do it.

He found that taking a break from simultaneously acting and directing – focusing solely on the latter this time – allowed him to tighten up some loose ends.

“When I’m acting, I’m thinking through the actor’s eyes and when I took a step back as a director, I saw some things I wasn’t quite happy about,” said Paata.

Of course, no qualms applied to Istrate’s performance, who Paata called the “right person” for the role, going on to praise Istrate’s “great range.”

“[Dan] is such a pleasure to watch, I joked with him that watching him was making me so jealous, I was going to fire him,” said Paata, calling Istrate’s Dracula more energetic and extreme.

Istrate sung equal praises of Paata, who he said gave him complete freedom in how to approach the blood-sucking character, though Istrate admitted being intimidated at first having to act out the role of Dracula in front of the man who knew it best.

“It was scary. At the same, I was honored. He trusted me and he wanted this ‘Dracula’ to be better than the last, so that alone goes to tell you about his own generosity as an artist. And now, we’re all four years older. He became something else as an artist and so did I,” said Istrate.

“Dracula” is this season’s hit-the-spot, bloody classic, enveloped in Synetic’s untouchable knack for physical storytelling.

• It runs through Nov. 15 at the Rosslyn Spectrum (1611 N. Kent St., Arlington). For tickets ($15 – 40), visit www.synetictheater.org.