Lord Ruthven, a charming but vicious vampyre with a taste for gambling, gains the confidence of Aubrey, a weak-willed young man who is dazzled by Ruthven's worldliness and urbanity. Through him Ruthven gains entrance to the stately country home of Aubrey's aunt, the rich but sharp-tongued Lady Harwood. As he draws Aubrey ever more deeply into debauchery and debt, the others try to loosen his hold on the impressionable youth, but to no avail. Before the evil Ruthven has "sated his thirst," murder, terror and mounting excitement rule the stage. None of the pretty young women in the household (Lydia, Melissa and Constance) are able to resist his sinister charm, nor can any of the men defeat him. Eventually Lord Ruthven claims Aubrey's all-too-willing sister as his bride, despite the growing, and well-founded, fears of the others that her very life may be in danger. Filled with those "penny dreadful" elements that audiences love—chills, thrills and black humor—this lively adaptation is both simple to produce and filled with well-balanced roles and climaxed with a final scene which is truly startling and electrifying.
A darkly menacing, suspense-filled "penny dreadful" thriller, which reaches back into the lives of Mary Shelley and her husband, the famous poet Percy Shelley, who once shared a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva with the notorious Lord Byron. To pass the time, Byron suggested that they each write a "ghost story." Mary produced the famous Frankenstein. Her husband lost interest in the undertaking, but Byron toyed with a "vampyre story." Such a work did eventually appear, but Byron denied authorship. In truth, the chilling tale was written by the nobleman's physician, John Polidori, who detested Byron and designed the story to discredit the roguish poet. Polidori's novella, upon which the present play is based, is considered the prime source of Bram Stoker's Dracula.