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For the thrill of it

Mason’s ‘Dracula’ arrives at Redtwist Theatre

Mark Mason, a graduate of Minooka Community High School, sits at the Redtwist Theatre, where his version of “Dracula” will be performed.
Mark Mason, a graduate of Minooka Community High School, sits at the Redtwist Theatre, where his version of “Dracula” will be performed.

A version of Dracula to beat all Draculas, written by a local resident, will be playing this October at a small theatre in Chicago,

Mark Mason, a Minooka Community High School graduate and Shorewood resident, says his new play, “Dracula:  A Tragedy,” is based on Bram Stoker’s classic novel, but with some twists all its own.

“This adaptation has a very different vision,” Mason said. “It asks the question, ‘How does justice exist in the same world as terror?’ It’s a very modern question that applies to our country today, as well as to 1893 London.”

The play is not for the faint of heart, though. It’s pretty dark, Mason said, and raw and a bit frightening. It’s definitely not for young children, he advised. In fact, although the show will be offered at 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays in October, Friday and Saturday showings are late-night, at 11:30 p.m.

Mason has always loved theatre, since he was a young child and his parents took him to plays. At Troy Middle School and into high school, he was involved in just about every play scheduled.

“I love the fun and the art and the thrill of theatre,” he said. “It’s always been a huge appeal to me.”

Mason met Stephen James Anderson at DePaul University’s Theatre School while Mason was earning his bachelor’s degree in playwriting.

Anderson, a director and fight choreographer, later approached Mason about writing a play based on the Dracula novel for Redtwist Theatre, with which he had affiliations.

“I thought it was a really fascinating idea,” Mason said. “It was an intimidating proposal, though, because it is such a well-known novel, but it was challenging. He thought we could both really break through with this.”

Mason wrote a draft of the play, and he and Anderson got some actors together to stage a reading of it before Redtwist’s board. They loved it, Mason said, and agreed to run it as an off-night, late-night horror show on top of their regular season. Anderson became the director.

The play actually runs some of the same nights as another Redtwist production. Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance,” a play some describe as one of “refined delicacy,” amazingly shares the same set as the Dracula play.

Mason loves writing plays, and the Dracula adaptation is not his first. He wrote one in college. “Hurrah for the Next Who Dies” ran as one of DePaul’s new playwright series.

“That went really well, actually,” Mason said. “I think it got me a reputation for a very stylized, violent, bloody type of work.”

Mason said his style of writing might be compared to Quentin Tarantino, Martin McDonagh, Tracy Letts and even Anton Chekov.

Mason said the Dracula play is set in 1893 London — a dark time when the likes of Jack the Ripper prowled the streets. The world wasn’t safe then, he said, much like today with terrorists in the shadows.

The press release for the play sets the feel. Insanity was spreading like “a red infection over the East End ... and through the dense fog in the dark streets of a dying city, stalks a force of monstrous evil, as a bloodied band of outsiders sacrifice all to save their country from an unspeakable fate.”

“It’s not your grandparents’ Dracula,” Mason said.

The playwright said the smaller, more intimate Redtwist Theatre will bring the mood of the play into the audience.

“It will be a terrifying experience,” he said. “It’s something you won’t be able to escape from.”

“Dracula: A Tragedy” shows at the Redtwist Theatre Friday, Oct. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 31. Start time is 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays, and 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, with two performances on Halloween, at 7:30 and 11:30 p.m.

The Redtwist Theatre is located at 1044 W. Bryn Mar in Chicago, two blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and one block east of the Red Line El Station.

Tickets are $15. Reservations can be made at 773-728-7529 or at reserve@redtwist.org. The theatre’s website is www.redtwist.org.

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