Theatre Review: ‘Bunnicula’ at Theatre of Youth

Celebrating it’s 46th season, Theatre of Youth presents “Bunnicula,” a whimsical, only slightly frightening tale, of a rabbit with long fangs and a suspicious fear of garlic. Based on the children’s books by Deborah and James Howe, “Bunnicula” tells the story of the vampire rabbit of the same name, who wreaks havoc on the household vegetables, as well as the family cat. No plump, colorful vegetable is safe from Bunnicula’s thirst for juice, and Chester the cat is convinced that soon the rabbit’s appetite will turn into a hunger for blood.

. . .a lighthearted, easy to follow horror-comedy that is perfect for children. . .

Meet Harold the dog (Rich Kraemer) and Chester the cat (Annie Roaldi), pets of the Monroe family, who live a quiet and content life inside the safe four walls of their master’s home. One fateful day sees the family come home from the cinema, where they had been watching “Dracula,” with a new addition to the household that instantly causes Chester’s fur to stand on end.

The adorable bunny found at the cinema is not what he seems, for at night he grows fangs, shines his bright red eyes, and is able to escape his cage without any limitations to feed on the vegetables in the Monroe’s fridge, draining the juice from them and turning them white. The family, Mr. and Mrs. Monroe (John Profeta and Jenn Stafford, respectively) and their two children, Toby (Tyler Eisenmann) and Pete (Ayden Herreid) discover Bunnicula’s first victim the morning after his arrival: a white tomato. With some over-the-top acting that reminisces a Shakespeare play and dramatic lighting, the family leads the audience into thinking they may suspect something truly heinous is happening… but to a gag reveal that “Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing…” proceeding to come up with the most blissfully ignorant excuses as to why the tomato (and subsequent vegetables) are dried up and white.

The play proceeds with Chester the cat nearly losing his mind over attempting to convince both the humans and Harold the dog to understand that Bunnicula is a blood thirsty vampire, and their lives are in danger. With some superb acting by Roaldi, the cat jumps onto every conceivable surface with ease, paws at a suspicious white zucchini, and sits and speaks with a confident swagger that hilariously resembles how real cats behave. Harold, either by choice or because he just wants a new friend to play with, is on the fence with his kitty counterpart, wanting to believe that there’s nothing wrong with Bunnicula, insisting Chester reads too much. Kraemer also shines as Harold the dog, prancing around the stage excitedly or in fear, twitching his head at every sound, and generally reflecting what dogs do best, being loyal and silly.

Bunnicula himself is controlled by the talented Christine Cooke-Macvittie, who brings the puppet to life in how she moves him around the stage, turns his head cutely (or menacingly) and wiggles his ears, among other acts. Eisenmann and Herreid also impress as Toby and Pete, able to bounce off of their co-stars smoothly and effectively, and perhaps giving the best projection during the musical numbers.

“Bunnicula” really shines in its music (Chester Popiloand) and lighting (Todd Proffitt), matching a comical rendition of creepy organs blaring (like you’d hear in classic vampire flicks), with focused spotlights and flashes of lightning from the set’s tall, ominous windows.

“Bunnicula” is a lighthearted, easy to follow horror-comedy that is perfect for children on Halloween (I mean, October). It’s frightening Dracula inspiration is downplayed by the adorable pets and the silly humans who think they know better. There’s many laughs and thrills to be had, recommended for ages 6 and up.

Running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 10 minute intermission.

“Bunnicula” runs until October 29, presented at Theatre of Youth. For more information, click here.