New Take on Old Horror: New theater company stages vampire tale ‘Nosferatu’

Tom Giffey

Considering its subject matter, it’s appropriate that Two Griffins Theatre’s upcoming presentation of Nosferatu has risen from the dead more than once.

This original stage adaptation of the cult classic 1922 vampire film has been a long time coming for the husband-and-wife team of James and Christine Finn – aka Two Griffins – who have been looking for a way to bring their tale of the undead to life for several years. Delays in revising the script, assembling the cast, and finding the right venue consigned the project to the grave more than once, but this month it will finally rise in the moonlight and creep through the shadows to wreak bloody havoc on Chippewa Valley audiences.

The show runs Oct. 12-14 at the Grand Theatre, 102 W. Grand Ave., Eau Claire. The Finns say their production owes a debt to the original German Expressionist film, which was directed by F.W. Murnau and itself was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. (In fact, Stoker’s estate sued the studio that produced Nosferatu and won. An authorized version of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi came to the big screen in 1931.)

They credit famed contemporary filmmaker David Lynch as an inspiration as well, so expect this blood-sucking tale to have some surrealistic elements. And while the play is based upon the original Nosferatu, James Finn explained, “We have used that as an inspiration to drive us into a completely different direction.” If they’re so inclined, he said, audiences may see a subtext in the tale; others may be content to get some ghoulish scares. The show, the Finns noted, isn’t for the faint or heart or for young children – so don’t say you haven’t been warned!

The Finns are tight-lipped about most aspects of the show, but audiences should expect a minimalist set and an emphasis on lighting, sound design, and the actors themselves to inspire fear. Among the cast is Josh Hammes-Murray, a veteran of scores of local theatrical productions, who said it’s been exciting to be part of breaking new group with a brand-new theatrical group. “There is no groove,” he said. “There is no track that you’ve been on for 20, 30, 40 years.”

James and Christine Finn are sharing directing duties, and they say they approach directing from an actors’ perspective: In fact, they’re both members of the seven-person cast. James said part of the inspiration in writing the show was to give his wife, who hasn’t acted much recently, a chance for a strong role. “We want everyone walking away thinking that was time and money well spent,” Chris Finn said of her hope for audiences. Added cast member Ada Packiewicz, “We’d like them to be scared a little bit,” to which James Finn chimed in, “A lot!”

Two Griffins Theatre Presents: Nosferatu • Friday-Saturday, Oct. 12-13, 7:30pm • Sunday, Oct. 14, 1:30pm • The Grand Theatre, 102 W. Grand Ave., Eau Claire • $15 adults, $10 students • for mature audiences • call (715) 832-7529 for tickets or buy them at the door.