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THEATER REVIEW: Sink your teeth into this “Dracula”

CORONADO -- ’Tis the season for extremes, and what’s farther out than a good vampire story?

The most famous bloodsucker of all is at Coronado Playhouse through Nov. 28, in John Mattera’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”

You remember the story: poor Jonathan Harker (Kyle Young) is sent from London to the big, dingy Transylvanian castle of Count Dracula (Hunter C. Smith) to sell him some London real estate.

Dracula’s ominous voice and all-too-solicitous demeanor soon creep Jonathan out, as does the way he swishes around in a colorful full-length cape vaguely resembling a comforter.

Jonathan is especially nonplussed when he learns the Count wants to buy the property closest to the house his lovely fiancée Lucy Westenra (Ruth Carlson) shares with her parents.

Of course the Count does just that, and while on his new property meets and wows Lucy, who soon after worries her parents with her increasingly pale and sickly appearance and her sudden habit of disappearing for longer and longer “walks” in the neighborhood. Even Lucy’s best friend Mina (Christina Phares) seems to find the Count irresistible.

Checking Lucy into the local hospital doesn’t help much; poor old Dr. Seward (Robert Shadbolt) is stumped and has to import the thickly accented Dutch Professor Van Helsing (Vander Turner) to help.

Things go from bad to worse until everybody drags out the “dime store crosses,” garlic strands and a mallet (“Croquet, anyone?” cracks the Count). Eventually, the real loony -- the quirky paranoid schizophrenic Mr. Renfield (Kevin Fipps) – saves the day.

Director Eric Scot Frydler plays up the comedy and dials back the horror, giving his mostly young and rambunctious cast free rein for the goofy.
One inspired example is in the person of the Westenras’ ancient and nearly blind butler Charles, given to stumbling and tippling and played to perfection by veteran actor Nick Bonacker.

The tall, handsome Smith makes a convincing count, especially with that voice that can be seductive or imperious (or both).

Carlson is excellent as the Count’s voluntary victim, as is Phares as Mina.

The double-cast Fipps is a hoot as the patient who catches flies to feed to his spiders, a bit less successful as Lucy’s father. Shadbolt and Turner acquit themselves well as the doctors.

Special kudos to SkinTightBodyArt.com for the fabulous hand-painted leotards worn by lady vampires Genevieve Robertson and Wendy Hayne.

The details

“Dracula” plays through Nov. 28 at Coronado Playhouse, 1835 Strand Way, Coronado.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.

For tickets, call (619) 435-4856 or visit www.coronadoplayhouse.com.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.