Review/Theater; Gothic 'Dark Shadows'
By MEL GUSSOW
Published: September 29, 1988
With the addition to the cast of Barnabas Collins, a troubled 175-year-old vampire, ''Dark Shadows'' began its long journey from late 1960's soap opera to Gothic cult phenomenon. As with ''Star Trek,'' ''Dark Shadows'' spawned spinoffs as well as collectibles. Now the experimental Via Theater has brought the serial to the stage. As adapted and directed by Brian Jucha, the show is running at Dance Theater Workshop. To make the transition from daytime television complete, performances begin at 11 P.M. and run well past the witching hour of midnight.
Mr. Jucha's version is an earnest, authentic evocation of the original. Clearly it would be of interest to fervent admirers of ''Dark Shadows,'' but for those less captivated by the skulduggery in the Collins closet, it has a limited appeal. The director has been judicious about not heightening the melodramatic and parodistic potential of the material. At the same time, as an evening of theater, it is an exceedingly somber experience.
The show begins with actors assembled around a table, holding their pose so long that they look like wax figures. Suddenly the tableau comes to life and we realize that we are witnesses at a seance, which sets the complex plot in motion. Soon the governess is projected back to 1795 and the play slowly reveals the roots of the family trauma and the secrets of Barnabas himself.
The ''Dark Shadows'' trappings are here, including the eerie theme music, portentous dialogue and a foreboding air, conveyed with the help of Sarah Edkins's scenery and Elizabeth Prince's costumes. As led by Mr. Jucha, the actors project a quiet intensity - Penny Boyer as the time-traveling governess, Tina Shepard in the Joan Bennett role and Julian Stone as Barnabas. Mr. Stone's Barnabas, as was true of Jonathan Frid in the role on television, is unlike Dracula except for his odd appetite. He could be considered a vulnerable vampire.
Looking at several episodes in the television serial - in New York it is rerun twice a week on Channel 31 -one sees that the soap opera had an improvised, even an offhanded manner, as if the actors were making up their lines as they spoke them. The stage ''Dark Shadows'' is a more polished effort, as one might expect from the Via Theater. Last season, the company collaborated on ''No Plays No Poetry,'' a provocative environmental interpretation of Brechtian theory - a far more consequential theatrical work than ''Dark Shadows.'' Going for the Jugular DARK SHADOWS, adapted and directed by Brian Jucha; set design, Sarah Edkins; lighting design by Roma Flowers; sound design by Teese Gohl; costume design by Elizabeth Prince; stage manager, Robin Riddell. Dance Theater Workshop/Economy Tires Theater presents Via Theater's production. At 219 West 19th Street. Created and performed by: Penny Boyer, John Hagan, Brendan Harris, Yolanda Hawkins, Lisa Marcus, Larry Maxwell, Coco McPherson, Barney O'Hanlon, Tina Shepard, Julian Stone, Valeria Vasilevski and Rachel Wineberg.
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