TV actor relishes an iconic role

October 21, 2007 (New York Times / Tammy La Gorce) -- It's not easy to think of Lorenzo Lamas as having an immortal soul, especially for those under 30, who are more likely to remember him for the short-lived 2003 reality show "Are You Hot?" than for his longer-running '80s and '90s TV series, "Falcon Crest" and "Renegade."


It may also be something of a stretch to imagine Mr. Lamas in the role of a character who vows to love his leading lady eternally; he has been married and divorced four times, after all, and has appeared on the cover of Playgirl nearly as many.

But Premiere Stages, the theatrical company housed at Kean University, is betting that audiences are willing to let typecasting slide Oct. 27 through Nov. 3, when Mr. Lamas will play Dracula in a Halloween-ready production of the Bram Stoker novel.

John Wooten, the artistic director, said the part might not require a complete suspension of disbelief.

"Steven Dietz's adaptation is gritty, sexy and naturalistic," Mr. Wooten said before dismissing his 12-member cast of vixens, madmen and terrified Londoners after a recent rehearsal.

In other words, it's in keeping with Mr. Lamas's still somewhat lusty persona, even at age 49. And as Mr. Lamas himself confirmed in a postrehearsal interview here, elements of the part ­ the machismo and thick Eastern European accent especially ­ come naturally to him.

"I get to bring passion to the role," said the graying but still rakish actor, capeless and wearing chinos the day after checking into a nearby hotel for his three-week stay in New Jersey. "Dracula's lived centuries, so there's a certain amount of ego there."

Also, he said, "I grew up with a man who had a voice like Dracula and every other bigger-than-life character you could ever think of in my father" ­ the late lothario Fernando Lamas, himself immortalized in a vintage "Saturday Night Live" impersonation by Billy Crystal. "I take a little bit from him to do the accent. I've also done four movies in Bulgaria."

Mostly, Mr. Lamas is trying to forge a path that leads from make-believe Transylvania to real-life Broadway. Before signing on with Premiere Stages, he took on his first stage role in August as the king of Siam in "The King and I" by Rodgers and Hammerstein at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine.

"There isn't a whole lot of work for 50-year-old action stars ­ Bruce Willis has that cornered pretty well," he explained. "I felt it was time to push myself a little."

His agent, David Shapira, is "hoping this may bring offers for other stage roles," Mr. Lamas said.

In the meantime, Mr. Lamas plans to sink his custom-made fangs, made by a Beverly Hills dentist, into Dracula, a part he said he didn't hesitate to accept because it is iconic.

Already, there are challenges. After asking for help with his lines several times during the first two days of rehearsal, he wished he knew the script better, he said. And an important scene with his leading lady, Mina, played by the Brooklyn-based actress Jordan Simmons, will require a certain delicacy.

"The seductive scene, where I tell her she's my dreamboat ­ that has to be sexy enough that people are into it, but not too over the top that it's comical," he said. "That's the line we're going to really try not to cross because there's so much of Dracula that can be parody, and we just don't want to go there."

In addition to the usual creative challenges, Mr. Lamas is anticipating a personal challenge just because the play is in New Jersey. He still has friends in Toms River from his high school days at the now-closed Northeastern campus of Admiral Farragut Academy, and plans to see several of them in the audience at one "Dracula" performance or another.

"They'll do their best to distract me," he said. "All they've got to do is smile at the wrong time. That's going to be tough for me."

The ribbing he'll take over drinks afterward could also be tough, he said. Though his reputation as a ladies' man has held up well, he's ready to be playfully called out as lecherous.

"You know, they'll say stuff about how I'm a 50-year-old man all over a 20-something girl," he said, referring to Ms. Simmons's Mina.

"I'm actually looking forward to it," he added.

"Dracula" will be at Premiere Stages at Kean University Oct. 27 through Nov. 3; Information: (908) 737-7469 or www.kean.edu/premierestages.

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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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