CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's the perfect theater date: Picture snuggling up to your honey as the scene opens to a crackling fire. Outside, thunder rumbles, wolves howl and bats take flight through jagged streaks of lightning.
Wait. Bats? Wolves? Perhaps "Dracula" isn't your stereotypical romantic date, but it is something different, says Adam Bryan, director and manager of the Alban Arts and Conference Center in St. Albans.
"It didn't fit the Halloween slot, so I said let's try Valentine's Day and call it 'Love Bites,' Bryan joked. The strategy must have worked, because the show has already sold a good amount of tickets, he added.
"Dracula" opened Friday at the Alban. The 1924 stage play adapted from the Bram Stoker novel toured England for three years and then made its way to the States. The Broadway production starred Bela Lugosi, who reprised his role of the count for the 1931 film version.
Alban's "Dracula" is directed by Norman Clere and stars Aaron Sheppard as the famous bloodsucker. But there is indeed a love story here -- that of Jonathan Harker (Jeremy Burns) and Lucy Seward (Emily Alice Dunn). Lucy is a sanitarium patient suffering from the same mysterious illness that killed her friend, Mina. Meanwhile, her father, Dr. Seward (Rick Fleenor), brings in the celebrated Abraham Van Helsing (Gary Brown) to help solve the problem.
We soon learn that Van Helsing is a vampire hunter and he has his sights set on the strange and mysterious Count Dracula, who recently immigrated to England from Transylvania.
It's a grave situation (pun intended), but the spooky moments are countered by a delightfully quirky Ethan Lyvers as the lunatic Renfield, who keeps escaping the sanitarium while his exasperated attendant (Patrick Rader) is charged with finding him and bringing him back.
The eight-person cast is rounded out by Cassandra Phelps as a maid who is tricked into assisting Dracula with his pursuit of poor, ailing Lucy.
Does love triumph in the end? Stakes are high (ooh, punning again), but the men are determined to save Lucy and send the count to a permanent dirt nap.
"Dracula" runs Sunday and on Feb. 21-23. Friday and Saturday shows open at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the door. For more information, call the Alban Arts Center at 304-721-8896 or visit www.albanartscenter.com.