Bram Stoker’s deathless 1897 vampire tale gets a unique revival October 13 through November 6 at National Landing courtesy of Synetic Theater, a unique company formed by the husband and wife team of Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili. This iteration of “Dracula,” directed by Paata Tsikurishvili, first appeared in 2005, returned in 2009, and is now back for its spookiest run yet at Synetic’s home base.
The October 28 show promises to be a special treat. For one night only, the “Dracula” performance will be followed by Vampire Ball, a colorful, convivial D.C. Halloween treat in the form of an indoor/outdoor affair full of unique food and drinks, wild costumes, and family fun.
To get an idea of what to expect from this new spin on an age-old page-turner, we spoke with Paata Tsikurishvili about the persistence of the vampire mystique, how the challenges of putting on a show have changed over the last few years, and why Halloween is the most magically charged holiday. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
District Fray: Why do you think vampire stories in general, and Dracula in particular, remain so compelling after all this time?
Paata Tsikurishvili: Arts lovers enjoy being immersed in a fantasy world where they can witness excitement, fear, and adrenaline. That’s a big factor in what makes these stories so compelling. Vampire stories, and “Dracula” specifically, are memorable, exciting, and otherworldly, even after countless retellings. Synetic’s adaptation of this classic heavily emphasizes physicality and movement you won’t find in other renditions. Classics will always be classics, but audiences like to see the different ways a story can be told. They want a new take they haven’t seen while still having familiarity with the story. No one does storytelling quite like Synetic, it’s truly a new experience, and our cast makes the story our own.
We all have a monster inside, and we can experience it in entertainment, especially theater, where the audience can witness the story unfold in a live setting that fills their senses.
What were the biggest challenges in mounting this production?
This production was run back-to-back with our first show, “Host & Guest.” The biggest challenge was transitioning from a dark drama to an energizing thriller as the two shows are very different. As always, our cast and crew have worked so hard and been extremely flexible in ensuring we give our audiences the best show.
What are a few subtle details for audiences to watch for?
Our Dracula, Dan Istrate, was born in Romania and grew up on the original tale of Vlad the Impaler. Audiences should look out for how Dan interprets the character through his deep connection with the story. Additionally, ours is a truly nightmarish take on Stoker’s story that balances the novel’s eerie, gothic, surrealist qualities with the underlying eroticism of his tale. Audiences will note that we have a very minimalist, back-to-basics set in this production that allows them to focus fully on the actors, movement, and story.
How do you think live theater has evolved in the last few years?
We are all more grateful than ever for the chance to be together. Shutdowns made us realize more deeply how fragile and interdependent the theater community is, and the flip side is that we are all so much stronger and more resilient when we work together.
In terms of Synetic, the last few years also gave us the time and space to experiment. We started Synetic Motion Pictures, an offshoot of our onstage work. Now we have more opportunities to practice our art, and audiences have new ways to experience it.
What makes Halloween magical?
Halloween is a time of year when we can join a world of our choosing, we get to become our fantasy for a night. Dressing up, playing a part. It’s a time for all to get in costume and perform, not just actors. Everyone gets to play a role, and it’s a fun and exciting time of year.