The latest Monkey Wrench Puppet Lab production Dracula: A Case Study, opened last week at Theatre Off Jackson. This is the first show from MWPL since the grueling Halfpenny Opera three years ago. This show was written and directed by Brian Kooser, the clever duck responsible for the wondrously creepy and creative “Frankenocchio,” which played at the Nippon Kan theater in 2004 and the Empty Space in 2005. Brian wrote a script outline more than 2 years ago, and he and I have been writing and re-writing the script for the last 18 months. He had been building the puppets full time since June. According to Brian, “We’ve been dreaming up this show for three years. It was supposed to be part of the Empty Space calendar last year, but we all know how that went…It’s the most complex puppet show I’ve ever been part of. We tried our damndest to be faithful to Bram Stoker’s story, with wild, weird, violent and schizophrenic results. It’s a hell of a ride.”
The instrument below which resembles a cello is actually a Transylvanian percussion instrument called an “uto-gardon.” According to Marchette DuBois, who is playing it here, Hungarian folk musicians came in contact with their first cellos in the 1500’s. With a very rudimentary knowledge of stringed instruments, they did their best to re-create the magical device. The result was this cello-shaped drum which is beat with a club shaped roughly like a bow. Here, it is being used to accompany the violin, giving a very sinister rhythmic thud.