photo by Brian Gawne
David Fanning takes flight as Count Dracula

Some of Gaslight Theatre's actors are so popular in certain roles they have become that role. Armen Dirtadian will always be the Phantom of the Opera. Joe Cooper will always be Willie Nelson.

And by now it is obvious David Fanning owns the night as Count Dracula. Donning the black cape and white fangs, he gives the Count a personality that is half East European aristocrat and half American rock star.

Perfect for the Gaslight's new staging of “The Vampire, or: He Loved in Vein.” Yes, it is almost Halloween season when thick swarms of fiendish puns about bats and blood are on the wing.

"What does a vampire call someone with high blood pressure?”

Fast food.”

How does a vampire like his coffee?


"Did you hear what happened to the priest who wouldn't pay his exorcist?"

The priest was re-possessed.” get the idea.

Basically, writer/director Peter Van Slyke follows the same story line as Bram Stoker's classic novel “Dracula.”

In Transylvania the villagers start trembling every time the sun goes down. To keep up their courage they dance “The Transylvania Polka” and sing old rock 'n' roll songs.

Meanwhile through the fog and shadows a hulking dark ship, the Bulgravia, is discovered wrecked near London with an empty coffin in the cargo hold.

Before you have time to wonder what is really at stake, lovely young women are feeling drained and Dr. Van Helsing (David Orley) is on the case.

We first notice that Miss Lucy (Janee Page) is Count Dracula's ravishing blood type. Then Miss Mina (Heather Stricker) is next to go down for the Count.

Pumping up the intensity is spikey-haired Cooper in another of his favorite roles, the wacky maniac Renfield.

Chronologically, “The Vampire” was one of the Gaslight's first big hits decades ago, so a lot of the music harkens back to the 1950s. Miss Lucy and Drac sing “Kiss of Fire” like they really mean it.

Miss Mina and her fiance Lord Alfred (Jake Chapman) provide the counterpoint doing an extended-pinky version of “Tea For Two.”

Tension mounts when Dr. Van Helsing brings out the bundles of garlic to hang around Miss Mina's bedroom.

The ending, of course, has got real bite.

Keeping a good thing going, the Gaslight gang turns to Wolfman Jack the all-night DJ for inspiration in staging its Howl-O-Ween Olio. My favorite part was getting to see a very authentic looking Adams Family take over the stage.

Wolfman Jack (Orley) also looks like the real thing. And Mike Yarema is very conincing as Boris the K singing “Monster Mash.”

Performances of “The Vampire, or: He Loved in Vein” run through Nov. 4 with shows at various times Tuesdays through Sundays in the Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway.

Tickets are $22.95 adults; $20.95 students, military and seniors; $12.95 children 2-12. For details and reservations 520-886-9428 and

photo by Ryan Phillips Fagan 
Steve Wood enriches his life by enjoying an orange.

You absolutely must see Steve Wood's disarmingly brilliant interactive monologue performance of “Every Brilliant Thing” at Live Theatre Workshop. He is beyond brilliant.

The poignant character he creates on a practically bare stage had the entire audience leaping to its feet a split second into his curtain call. Sabian Trout is the director.

Tucson's theater season is just starting but “Every Brilliant Thing” is sure to be one of the most engaging productions. Wood's unassuming presence depicting the innocence of hope and the longing for magic will burrow straight into a special corner of your heart and stay there a very long time.

The conception of British playwright Duncan Macmillan, the play's subject is suicide but it isn't about suicide. It is about a young boy's love for his mother as he grows from age seven into manhood while his mom slips slowly out of his grasp, disappearing into terminal depression.

To soften this experience, Macmillan uses the audience to provide spontaneous humor and a compelling sense of community. We all become a part of Wood's own journey of discovery. It is the actor's talent for creating wonderment that makes each surprise seem so genuine.

In normal British parlance, Wikipedia informs us, the word “brilliant' connotes something excellent or exptional. When the lad first learns of his mom's deep sadness, his first response is to begin making a specal list of wondrful things – to remind her what makes life worth living.

His fst item is “ice cream.”

But as the mother' s illness drags into years and the boy becomes a teen, the numbered list keeps growing to 100, then 1,000, then 10,000. It never stops growing, extending, as the items become more specific, such as “The feeling of calm which follows the realization that, although you may be in a regrettable situation, there is nothing you can do about it.”

Personalilzing this roller coatester begins as members of the audience arerive at the Theatre. Wood wearing casual street clothes greets each person. Some are also given a card to read on cue. Many of the cards are simply names to add to the boy's ever-expanding list.

As Wood recalls his memories of growing bigger even as his mom's presence becomes smaller, audience members read their lines and get caught up in this life-affirming desire to help.

His own courtship and marriage become a part of the story, too. Then symptoms of his mother's depression begin appearing in his own life.

But that is just the arc of the plot, the progression of scenes. “Every Brilliant Thing” is really about the power of hope. And the endearment in how much a genuine all-boy kind of kid can truly care – in the deepest parts of his all-boy heart – for the mother he can only ever dream about having again.

“Every Brilliant Thing” runs through Oct. 6 with performances at 7:30 p.m Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Tickets are $15 Thursdays, $20 all other times. For details and reservations, or call 327-4242.