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'Dracula Bites'Bloody good comedy premiering at Barter Theatre

staff report • Sep 28, 2011 at 1:49 AM

They’ve brought audiences the hilarious “Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell” and “Elvis Has Left the Building.” Now, the comedic writing duo of Duke Ernsberger and V. Cate has put a kooky spin on Bram Stoker’s classic “Dracula” that will have the playwright rolling in his grave and audiences rolling in the aisles. Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., will present the world premiere of “Dracula Bites” on Thursday, Sept. 29, with performances continuing on the theatre’s main stage through Nov. 12. Tickets are $29, $34 and $38. “ ‘Dracula Bites’ is both a trick and a treat for audiences,” said Richard Rose, director and producing artistic director of Barter Theatre. “With outrageously witty dialogue — notorious in Ernsberger and Cate’s work — and extreme situational comedy, I dare anyone to watch it without laughing.” When the struggling Valley Dale Playhouse is in need of a miracle, its turn to actor turned director turned playwright, the flamboyant Gregory Pastel, to save the day. “Dracula Bites” — or should we say “ ‘Dra-koola’ Bites” — is Pastel’s “serious” (well, seriously funny) adaptation of Stoker’s book in which no detail is overlooked. “Michael Poisson plays Gregory Pastel, and this role couldn’t suit his comedic timing and deadpan humor more,” said Rose. Audiences may remember Poisson as Gordon in “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” Selznick in “Don’t Cry for Me Margaret Mitchell” and Herb in “Lying in State.” As Pastel’s list of demands grows bigger and crazier — three naked brides, a real horse-drawn carriage and a live cat that Renfield eats onstage — Valley Dale’s artistic director, Nattie Sills (Mary Lucy Bivins, who played Molly in Barter’s “The Full Monty” and Margo in “Lying in State”), begins to question her decision to entrust the production — and the theatre’s future — to the eccentric thespian. The cast of this community theatre — a mixed bag of misfits — is the garlic bulb on top of “Dracula Bites,” or ‘Dra-koola’ as Pastel insists it is pronounced. Harker is played by Gus Timberlake (Rick McVey — Cogsworth in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and Victor Fleming in “Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell”), who owns the hardware store and practically does back flips to please Pastel. There’s Joyce Fickle (Abbey C. Elliot), who works at the Chick Filet and is extremely excited to play the very, very, very beautiful Lucy. Mike Morehead (Sean Campos — Clown in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” and Miles in “Chaps!”) is the owner of Morehead Mortuaries and plays Renfield, a zoophagous — that’s “life-eating maniac” — patient at the neighboring insane asylum. Stewart Minor (Matthew Bivins) plays the lead, the blood-sucking 300-year-old count. You haven’t heard of him — yet — but Minor is convinced that this role is going to shoot him to super stardom, not only because he has been obsessed with Dracula since he was a boy, but also because of the chance to work with a New York City playwright/director. Mrs. Mora Pastel (Erin Parker), Gregory’s wife and one-time actor at the Valley Dale playhouse, rounds out the group as a hand model, er, hand “act o r. ” “The comic genius of ‘Dracula Bites’ is the passion of the pursuit of the characters of this play as they all pursue the dream to create the perfect production of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula,’ ” Rose said. “Why wouldn’t this play work out? But it is the very drive of their passions and the desperate attempts to fulfill their own needs and dreams that prevent them from succeeding, at least not succeeding in the way they had in mind. “Now that makes for a really great comedy.” Patrons can enter for a chance to win two free tickets to the show when they donate blood between 9 and 11:30 a.m., Oct. 19 at Barter Stage II. The blood drive is in partnership with Johnston Memorial Hospital. Fans can get a sneak peak of “Dracula Bites” and other Barter Theatre fall repertory productions by visiting Youtube.com/BarterTheatre . For tickets or more information, call (276) 628-3991 or visit BarterTheatre.com .

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