TIME: 1922, Winter
PLACE: An asylum in Northern England on the coast of the Northern Sea
In a well-kept and cheery British home, the living quarters for the doctor’s family above an asylum.
CHARACTERS (3 women, 6 men)
RENFIELD – a long-time patient and trustee, weak, bald with surgical scars on his cranium, 40s
PERDITA– Hispanic adopted daughter of Seward, brilliant, serious, 19
BRIGID– Irish cook and maid—and more, 30s
HOSKINS: – Cockney butler and part-time orderly, large, strapping
JONATHAN HARKER --barrister-at-law, engaged to LUCY: , 40s, fashionable man-about-town, soldierly, stiff-upper lift, perfect posture.
LUCY – granddaughter of Seward, modern and fatuous, 18
MORTIMER SEWARD M.D. - proprietor of the asylum, 60s
VINCENT HELSINGER: , Ph. D—a German scholar and tutor to LUCY: and Perdita, mid-30s, handsome, wasted, a depressed alcoholic.
VLAD, COUNT TEPES—Romanian, Count of Wallachia and Transylvania, late 20s, wan and pale to begin, increasingly healthy as the story progress, growing into a ruddy and sanguine complexion by play’s end.
Two ghostly, erotic tango dancers enter from different sides of the stage, meet center, and tango to “Tango de Ariel.”
At the tango’s end, they have danced nearly to the wings, then a black out one beat after the music ends; after the afterglow fades, they exit. Eight beats later the oboe begins.
RENFIELD enters reading a large book with “Balkan Folk Tales” printed large on the cover. He meanders, reading, then looks at the audience, is shocked to see them, and runs off frightened before the oboe ends.
[Note: click on the songs in yellow for a YouTube video with the lyrics.]
ACT I Scene 2
In the drawing room. LUCY attempts to teach HARKER the tango to the music of a scratchy gramophone recording.)
SEWARD: That decadent dance from the Argentine. 2nd Timothy, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness.”
PERDITA: (without looking up from her book) Ecclesiastes 3, “...a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
SEWARD: 1st Corinthians 7, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman."
LUCY: Please, father. It’s 1922. How in the world could anyone sin in this isolated house under your watchful eye?
PERDITA: (Interrupting to change the subject.) When does your patient arrive, Father?
LUCY: Is he really a Count? True nobility coming here to the sanatorium?
SEWARD: As noble as they come. His family goes back beyond the 14th century Balkans. Fought the Turks and kept them out of getting into Europe through the back door. Inbreeding ever since, no doubt, isolated as they were in their mountain kingdom.
PERDITA: What is wrong with him precisely, father?
SEWARD: The diagnosis from my colleague in Vienna is porphyria which makes him allergic to sunlight. He is anemic and extremely melancholic. And an addict, I fear.
HARKER: A drug addict, you say? In your home as a guest?
PERDITA: Byron, Keats, Shelley, they all took the pipe for inspiration.
LUCY: Some excitement at last at our boring little Bedlam. When does he arrive?
SEWARD: Any time now. Alert Hoskins and Brigid to see to his arrival.
(PERDITA rises to ring for the maid by pulling the bell pull, then returns to sit.)
LUCY: Aren’t you excited? A Count!
PERDITA: Not so excited as you, I think.
HARKER: Just a pushover for a title, eh? My wife-to-be swoons for nobility, does she?
LUCY: You’ve caught me being silly. I loathe it when you catch me at indiscretions, and you always seem to. I will have to be a most faithful wife—or at the very least a more discreet one! Do you still love me in spite of my failings?!
HARKER: Every time she wants to smooth it over with me, she plays weak-willed and swoons into my arms. I can only hope she continues to do so after we’re married!
LUCY: (tugging at HARKER) Tango with me!
(They resume the dance lesson.)
PERDITA: You two!
SEWARD: I can only harbor a silent hope that you two will forego your antics in the presence of my patient, our guest. He is not on display; he comes here for recuperation and treatment.
BRIGID: Yes, ma’am, someone rang?
PERDITA: Brigid, dear, please have supper when our guest arrives.
SEWARD: Brigid, do not be offended if he does not eat. A lack of appetite is a symptom of his malady.
BRIGID: Miss Perdita, a word?
PERDITA: Yes, Brigid?
BRIGID: How do I address him, ma’am? Our new visitor?
PERDITA: Oh, dear. Your lordship, I think. Is that right, father?
SEWARD: He is a count, and that’s the same as an earl. “M’lord” will suffice.
BRIGID: Thank you, sir. I’ll see to his needs. (Brigid exits.)
(RENFIELD enters, reading a large book, with the title “Balkan Folk Tales” which should be visible to the audience if possible.)
PERDITA: What is his lordship’s name, sir?
SEWARD: Count Voivod Vladimir Tepes (pr. Tepes) of Transylvania.
(RENFIELD screams and falls to his knees.)
\(HOSKINS, hearing the scream, runs in.)
RENFIELD: Miles and miles of bodies on stakes. Impaled crosswise…through the ribs…up under the jaw…between the legs! Noooooooo!
SEWARD: In God’s name, Renfield!
PERDITA: Father! Why?
HOSKINS: Steady there, y’ bugger!
SEWARD: Renfield, look at me—what has upset you so?
HOSKINS: He keeps screaming about “The Impaler.” What’s an impaler, sir?
HARKER: Why, as if you were to run someone through with a pike and hang them up by it.
RENFIELD: It’s in the book! It’s all in the book!
SEWARD: Calm yourself, my friend. What book?
(RENFIELD scuttles on hands-and-knees to PERDITA’s side.)
RENFIELD: Miss Perdita, help me! I sing the song like I was his poppet!
PERDITA: Whose song do you sing?
(HOSKINS pushes RENFIELD to his knees.
SEWARD injects RENFIELD with a sedative.)
RENFIELD: Now you push it in, but soon he’ll drain it out.
(RENFIELD slumps, all drop their guard, then he leaps up and runs out with Hoskins giving chase.)
SEWARD: (Calling after them) Get him to a safe room, and put him in restraints! Unbelievable! The injection should have knocked him flat.
LUCY: Restraints, father? He’s always been so gentle.
PERDITA: Father, he seemed to be singing of some sort of god.
LUCY: Perhaps he was disturbed by the excitement around our new visitor.
SEWARD: We must be careful of what we allow him to read. Many patients are prone to develop religious delusions.
(PERDITA rolls her eyes and sighs at her father’s religious obsession, then she looks toward LUCY who looks frightened. PERDITA comforts LUCY as they exit.)
ACT I Scene 3
(In the drawing room. Brigid rolls in the drink cart.)
SEWARD: It seems like a good double malt might settle the nerves, eh, Harker?
BRIGID: Will the professor be joining us this evening, sir?
SEWARD: This time of day, I imagine our scholar is in his cups.
HARKER: You have great forbearance, Dr. Seward. I am astonished at your retaining such a sot as Helsinger for Perdita and Lucy’s tutor. And a Jerry.
SEWARD: My late wife made me promise to provide a well-rounded education for the girls. Helsinger may be bit unorthodox, but then we do live above a madhouse. Perdita learns a great deal from him, and it will prepare her for the time when she may leave this sheltered world. As to Lucy—well, you’ve chosen her to be your wife.
(HELSINGER enters, intoxicated; he has a German accent.)
HELSINGER: Mortimer, good evening, sorry to disturb. Have you seen my book of Balkan Folktales? I swore I left it on my desk. Perhaps the drink is affecting my memory. Apologies, I am not fit for company.
SEWARD: Being in your cups doesn’t make you unwelcome. Eat with us, it will do you good.
HELSINGER: You are so kind, but I prefer that Perdita--(looks to Harker) and Lucy —not see their tutor in Dionysian disgrace too often. most fascinating book; frightening what monsters those people believe in, even to this day. (To Brigid) bridey, mein schatz, keep an eye out for my lost book, bitte.
(BRIGID exits, happy that HELSINGER has called her something that sounded sweet albeit in German.)
SEWARD: Preparing for our Transylvanian visitor, were you?
HELSINGER: Are we having visitors?
SEWARD: You mean this is coincidence? Amazing.
HELSINGER: I do not follow; please, have mercy on this drunken fool.
(HELSINGER sees HARKER at the drink cart. He addresses SEWARD .)
A thousand pardons, do you think I could have a dram of that? ‘
SEWARD: If you can drink it without spilling it, it’s yours, my friend.
HELSINGER: (drops ice into the glass, fills it, crosses to piano with drink.)
Let me play something to earn my whisky. Something fitting for the setting of the sun? I am fond of that wonderful word you have, “the gloaming!”
(HELSINGER plays two measures of Chopin’s Nocturne Op.9 No. 2.)
Ach, sunset brings such melancholy! Here is a drinking song I learned at your university I wager you know.
(SEWARD joins HELSINGER at the piano immediately. HARKER hangs back and does not sing.)
HELSINGER and SEWARD sing
“Pour the Ice in the Glass”
HELSINGER: Now, what is his name, the one who is coming?
SEWARD: Voivod Vlad Tepes the Eighth, Dracul of Wallachia.
HELSINGER: Most daunting. His family is part of that dark history intermingled with those folk tales. If I could just lay my hands on that book…
SEWARD: (calling after him) Join us for dessert, perhaps? (to HARKER) Amazing coincidence about the book, wot, Harker?
HARKER: How did you come to know him?
SEWARD: He came as a patient for depression a little more than a year ago. He is a bit of a genius, a doctor of medicine and philosophy, but drink took its toll, and he ended up a lecturer at the school for young women. Regrettably, he was accused of indiscretion with a senior student. When I pressed him for the truth of it, he would only say that he would not impugn the young lady’s reputation by calling her a liar. We tried to wean him from the drink, but even after it was out of his system the depression got worse. Rather than send my daughters off to boarding school, I determined to have them schooled in the home and offered him the position of tutor. I wanted them here so I could keep an eye on them…and him. He has been a model of decorum with them. Seems my patients often become part of the household; take Renfield for example---
HOSKINS: Doctor, your guest, err, patient has arrived. Sir, begging your pardon to speak the truth, but the poor man looks a wraith.
SEWARD: Harker, shall we greet this provocative visitor?
(SEWARD and HARKER exit.)
ACT I Scene 4
At the front door of the SEWARD residence.
(Cross fade to knock on the door. No one answers. A second knock. Brigid enters to answer it.)
BRIGID: (To herself) Where is that worthless Johnny Bull? It’s his job to answer—(LUCY scurries in and intercepts Brigid.)
LUCY: I’ll get it!
BRIGID: But, ma’am, I should—(Brigid pauses with a worried look, then exits).
LUCY: (opens the door to Vlad who is backlit which shows a dark figure that startles LUCY). Oh!
VLAD: I am Vlad Tepes.
LUCY: (She curtsies) You are most welcome, your Lordship. I am Lucy.
SEWARD: We have been eagerly anticipating your arrival.
VLAD: (avoids looking at LUCY) So kind of you to greet me. I was expecting a servant to answer the door.
LUCY: I was eager—uhhh—I thought a member of the household should greet such a distinguished gentleman.
(vLAD walks with a cane—preferably a fashionable walking stick with a fierce animal’s head as the handle.)
VLAD: May I sit? It was a long journey, and I am easily wearied.
LUCY: I fear I have forgotten my manners.
(They move from the hall into the drawing room. )
LUCY: (attempts to assist him into the sitting room, but he holds up a hand to stop her.)
You are the first noble personage to visit here.
(SEWARD and PERDITA enter, followed by HARKER.)
SEWARD: My dear Count, apologies for not greeting you.
LUCY: Hoskins and Brigid were otherwise occupied so I played butler and hostess, father.
SEWARD: Allow me to present my other daughter Perdita as well as Lucy’s fiancé Jonathan Harker, Esquire. The Right Honorable Vladimir Tepes, Count of Wallachia and Transylvania.
(VLAD looks at PERDITA, turns quickly downstage with a look of fearful astonishment, then he turns back still averting his eyes. PERDITA is taken with VLAD, and curtsies deeply. The others look surprised at this. HELSINGER enters, doing his best to act sober, and is astonished to see PERDITA curtseying.)
SEWARD: Here is my friend and colleague and my daughters’ tutor, Dr. Vincent HELSINGER: -- Count Dracul. Sit and rest. Our cook is preparing a light supper.
VLAD: Please, no fuss for me.
PERDITA: You’ve had a long journey and need refreshment.
HELSINGER: You are from the Carpathians? I have studied you…your forbears, I mean--and your country’s history and folklore. Are you a vampire like they say?
(Spoken in unison in protest against HELSINGER’s insolence)
SEWARD: PERDITA: HARKER:
Vincent! Professor! Sir!
VLAD: (Laughs)Yes, indeed I am, sir, in so many ways, I fear. And you?
HELSINGER: (Wryly)Well, I have bled the life energy out of myself. Do you reside in your mountain kingdom?
VLAD: No, I have an estate in Argentina. I went there once a long time ago on an expedition into the jungle which I funded, and they let me tag along. I have been many other places, but I always return there. It is an enchanting country with many interesting creatures.
SEWARD: The Argentine, you say?! No!
HELSINGER: Isn’t that where…?
PERDITA: I was born there. I was orphaned. The doctor and his wife rescued me and gave me a home.
VLAD: I am no stranger to coincidence.
PERDITA: But I know much about the place and the animals you speak of--the capybara, the worlds’ largest rodent, the pampas cat, the maned wolf, the very venomous yarará pit viper...
VLAD: Very good, senorita!
LUCY: (Whispers) Show off!
HELSINGER: And Desmodus rotundus?
VLAD: (Pause) Yes, the vampire bat. Sucked on the toes of sleeping sailors. Often rabid, I fear.
LUCY: And the tango! Do you tango, Count?
VLAD: The dance where the thighs touch. I am surprised a refined lady is familiar with it.
HARKER: Lucy is attempting to teach me the dance, m’Lord, poor girl.
HELSINGER: Dracul. I have read that translates to “the dragon,” or --
VLAD: --“the Devil.” Yes. The Order of the Dragon founded by the Holy Roman Emperor to fight the Turkish invasion. My family did demonic things to frighten the devil out of the Turks and chase the invaders out of my Wallachia.
LUCY: Devilish things? Please, tell us!
PERDITA: My sister is an aficionado of the Gothic, Count Dracul.
LUCY: The grotesque often reveals the subconscious, isn’t that right, Professor?
HELSINGER: There is much to learn from the dark side, my dear. (to VLAD ) Your ancestral name Tepes means “The Impaler.”
VLAD: “The Impaler.” Yes, we carry the shame of that unfortunate name.
LUCY: Impaler?! Renfield was raving—
(PERDITA looks at LUCY to stifle her near faux pas, and LUCY changes he subject mid-sentence.) Uh, what did your ancestors do to the Infidel?
VLAD: It is a sad and fearsome story. Doctor, is it permissible?
SEWARD: If it doesn’t disturb you to tell it…
VLAD sings “In a Kingdom”
SEWARD: A fine voice, sir.
LUCY: Fascinating. You are a troubadour!
HELSINGER: You and I must discuss the ways of the Carpathian people.
SEWARD: But for now, my guest must retire for his health.
VLAD: Thank you, sir. However, I don’t sleep well at night. Would you permit me to wander about your home?
SEWARD: Of course!
LUCY: You would find it warmer in the arboretum, m’lord.
HELSINGER: Often I’m awake also through the night. Visit me anytime.
VLAD: Thank you for that invitation. I sense that it will be a meaningful visit.
BRIGID: If it please you, supper is—-(BRIGID stops mid-sentence and turns to look at VLAD who has been out of her sight line, she goes pale. VLAD looks at her and cocks his head)---served.
ACT I Scene 6
In the arboretum
(VLAD sits in the arboretum. RENFIELD peers around corner. VLAD turns, catching him lurking. RENFIELD drops to knees and approaches VLAD.)
RENFIELD:Are you he who has returned? Are you he who has been resurrected and shall live forever and ever?
VLAD: I am anything you want me to be.
(RENFIELD makes the kow-tow, kneeling with his head to the floor.)
RENFIELD: My soul is tortured. My mind is not my own. They tie me down, they cloud my mind with their drugs.
VLAD: Perhaps we can help one another.
RENFIELD: (still on his knees, looks up at VLAD.) Anything for you.
VLAD: They must have drugs here—heroin or other opiates. Do you know where they are kept?
RENFIELD: Of course, my master. They give me morphine each day. I can save mine for you. But at night they lock the cabinet and lock me in my cell at night.
VLAD: I will find the keys and set you free.
RENFIELD: You will release me from my cell?! My lord, my lord! I knew you’d come!
VLAD: One last thing. A more intricate request. Do you have access to the outside?
RENFIELD: They allow me to walk the grounds and tend to the animals.
VLAD: Excellent. I need blood. Animal blood. A rat, a cat, a cow, a goat, or a dog. Even a horse or a pig. But never, ever human blood. Here is a red wine bottle to keep it in--it will disguise it. If you can, bring it while it is still warm. Now go.
RENFIELD: Anything for you. You are my master, my Lord.
(RENFIELD rises, take three steps backward, turns and runs off.)
ACT I Scene 7
In the kitchen below stairs
(BRIGID is chopping herbs on her butcher block. She hears a noise behind her, but doesn’t turn.)
BRIGID: Who’s there?
HOSKINS: Who else? Like they’d come below stairs to see you (HOSKINS looks at the book over BRIGID’s shoulder,) What is that? A picture book?
BRIGID: It’s my granny’s cookbook, nosy parker.
HOSKINS: It’s got no writing in it. Can’t you read?
BRIGID: Never learned how. The priest said it weren’t pure for girls to read. It could take their innocence.
HOSKINS: Priests and those good little Catholic girls--I’ve heard the stories.
BRIGID: Shut it! He was a good man. He’d come to granny’s hut every Friday to learn about her healing herbs. He’d read us the Bible, he’d read us the Bard. I remember the words, though I can’t say I understood them all.
HOSKINS: This is a strange clan. That young lovely Lucy betrothed to that old fart Harker. And that dark and lovely lass. She from the wrong side of the blanket?
BRIGID: What a charmer, you are! They found little Perdita as a waif wandering the streets in the Argentine. Lucy was here after the doctor’s son and wife passed over, so, they raised them as sisters. The doctor’s wife died, having the girls here saved him from a load of misery. He likes that they both call him father. Makes him feel young.
HOSKINS: What about Miss Lucy and that older man?
BRIGID: Solicitor Harker? Have you noticed that there are not a lot of young available men about since the Great War took near half a million? Mr. Harker’s a good man who’ll take care of her. I can only hope that Perdita finds a match soon.
HOSKINS: Who would marry a brown girl?
BRIGID: It pains me to admit that. She’s of marriage-able age now, and it breaks my heart to think of her as a spinster taking care of her dotty old grand da’. Slim chance of meeting a fella worthy of her in this barren land.
HOSKINS: :And what do you think of the noble gentleman? Seems nice enough for a toff. Maybe she could marry him.
BRIGID: Don’t speak of him.
HOSKINS: Why not?
BRIGID: He carries a disease of the soul—the contagious sort. I’m making a stew to inoculate us against his darkness.
HOSKINS: You Micks are a superstitious race with your fairies and your banshees and your potions. Well, here, I’ve got a little thriller for you. Let me sing you this little ditty….
BRIGID and HOSKINS sing
“I Fink You T’ink”
(HOSKINS leans in for a kiss. BRIGID pulls out the carving knife from behind her back and HOSKINS scurries out to her amusement.)
Book & Lyrics by John McMullen
Music by John McMullen
Tal Ariel, Elizabeth Jane Dunne, Bruce Munson
Orchestrations by Tal Ariel & Bruce Munson
A vampire tries to regain his humanity—but urges and temptations are strong.
It is about a Romanian Nobleman who was bitten a few centuries ago and doesn’t seem to be able to die.
He has some addictions: the blood of virgins and heroin.
(It is 1922, virginity is all-important, and heroin is not yet illegal.)
He doesn’t want to drink human blood any more. He suffers from depression and has become anemic from his abstinence. He retreats to a “clinic” in Northern England on the North Sea.
And much to his chagrin, there are two lovely young ladies there!
Can he avert his eyes?
Will his sobriety hold?
Will love save him or destroy him?
Blood Tango the Musical is a romantic and tragic retelling of the vampire myth as it might really have happened.