Life eternal--yours for a kiss.

Venture into the world of vampires, filled with blood, fatal bites and the curse of immortality. Lake Braddock Secondary School's portrayal of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" brought these things to life, the audience drawn in by remarkable special effects, the intensity of the staging and an engaging cast of actors who carried the show, starting with Brian Wahlquist as Mr. Renfield.

As Renfield, the deranged servant of Count Dracula, Wahlquist never lost character as he gradually edged closer to insanity. The sound crew aided him with schizophrenic voices heard at various moments, symbolizing Renfield's madness. At other times, waves could be heard crashing against rocks and shovels digging in the middle of the night.

The actors kept the suspense going, with strong performances by Natalie Nardone as Miss Lucy Westerna, Michael Innocenti as Dr. Seward, Tori Socha as Miss Mina Murray and Bobak Zarrinnahad as the count.

Imagery was used in many scenes, such as when Lucy stood at the edge of her window with smoke rising from the ground and waves crashing in the distance, while at the same time Renfield was being tormented in the asylum even as Jonathan Harker (Dan Brown) was surrounded by Dracula's vixens.

The overlapping madness was meant, perhaps, to raise some goose bumps, which it certainly did. The choice of music set the darkened tone and thickened its intensity, while timorous songs such as Carmina Burana's "O Fortuna," played during intermission, kept the audience in the moment.

Lucy was, to say the least, extremely frightening in her white, blood-stained dress. The lady-turned-vampire was profound, whether playing good or evil. Dracula's character was steeped in intrigue, and Zarrinnahad kept his Transylvanian accent constant.

Several moments made this show, among them Lucy's death, the vixens attacking Harker, Renfield's escape from the asylum and the last curtain call, in which the entire grim-visaged cast stood on stage, intimidating the audience. A blackout led into "O fortuna," followed by Renfield's haunting final words: "The fear embedded into your mind is yours forever--sweet dreams."

-- Kristen Zell

Hayfield Secondary School

Dracula's name rings fear in the ears of many. The production of Steven Dietz's adaptation by Lake Braddock students lived up to the count's fearsome reputation.

The play opens with Mr. Renfield (Brian Wahlquist) explaining how Dracula has made him immortal; Renfield is then taken to an insane asylum. Wahlquist gave an exhilarating portrayal of a madman, striking a chord of empathy over how misunderstood he was when talking about his master, Dracula.

Wahlquist stayed focused throughout, a neat feat given that he was on stage the entire time, still in character even when the spotlight was not trained on him.

Natalie Nardone's portrayal of Lucy Westerna was sheer genius. Nardone was totally immersed in her character, giving an intense and focused portrayal of a vampire.

The male roles, too, were well crafted: Dan Brown as Jonathan Harker, Michael Innocenti as Dr. Seward, Joe Leotta as Van Helsing and Bobak Zarrinnahad as Dracula. All had obviously thought through their characters, and their accents, in particular, were noteworthy.

The only shortfall was that some of the actors could have used a shot of emotion at critical times, such as when their loved ones were dying off.

Michael Innocenti doubled as Dr. Seward on stage and, off it, as the play's lighting director. His spare use of light enhanced the foreboding sense of gloom and made the vampire ladies seem paler by the minute.

The music, too, added to the suspense, intensifying the plot and placing viewers on the edge of their seats.

Josh Katcher's special effects were Hollywood-worthy, especially the blood spurting from a "human heart" as the vampire's stake did its macabre work.

Overall, a scary, and memorable, production.

-- Ashley Schultz

Lee High School

CAPTION: Drama director R.L. Mirabel, right, goes over a point with the Lake Braddock Secondary School cast during rehearsal. "Dracula" lived up to its scary reputation.