Martin, like other biographers before him, suggests Irving was the model and inspiration for the sinister Count Dracula: His domineering personality subsumed Stoker's, and vampirelike, he took advantage of Stoker's talents and loyalty, sucking out his blood and energy. Martin focuses on the deeply conflicted relations between the two men, refereed by Ellen Terry (Teri Bibb), Irving's leading lady and, perhaps, his mistress. The plot hinges on Stoker's attempt to persuade a reluctant Irving to play Dracula in the first reading of the stage version of his novel.
Martin deploys the historical facts with skill, creating opportunities for impassioned arias and duets as well as lively ensemble numbers. Patteri captures Stoker's passion and thwarted ambition, and Goodman finds comedy and menace in Irving's crotchety egotism. Bibb makes less attempt to capture a physical resemblance to Ellen Terry but brings ample winsome charm of her own to the role. Joey D'Auria provides an appealing portrait of Irving's irrepressible stage manager, and a large and skillful ensemble exudes high energy. Director David Galligan navigates the play's shifting moods with loving care, Jimmy Cuomo supplies the handsomely atmospheric set and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg the colorful period costumes. Music direction is by Ross Kalling, with choreography by Lee Martino.
Presented by the Katselas Theatre Company and at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. Oct. 10–Nov. 8. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (310) 358-9936. www.katselastheatre.org.