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A comic 'Dracula' rules the Desert Star Playhouse stage

Published: Monday, Sept. 1 2014 4:40 p.m. MDT

Students enjoy a show during the Desert Star Sack Lunch theater at the Desert Star Playhouse in Murray on Thursday, March 13, 2014. Dracula is focused on feasting on beautiful young ladies "forever! Like families are forever!" in the spoof currently running on the Desert Star Playhouse stage — but he's also vulnerable, funny, a little clueless and likable.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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"DRACULA: HE'S SO VEIN!" through Nov. 8, Desert Star Playhouse, 4861 S. State, Murray (801-266-2600 or desertstarplayhouse.com), running time: 2 hours 15 minutes with olios (including two intermissions)

MURRAY — Matt Kohler makes a fine heartless-yet-sympathetic Dracula in the newest version of the spooky story at Desert Star Playhouse.

He's merciless, determined to bite and good at delivering the one-liners that bash everything from Bill and Hillary Clinton ("Your turn to be president!") to the unlikely possibility of finding an honest attorney general ("She is dreaming!").

He's swooping about in a gorgeous red-and-black silk cape, and when he's not onstage in person, he's a ferocious-looking toy bat swinging from the rafters.

As Dracula, Kohler has an intimidating presence; a great, scary laugh that can go on and on; and he's a bit of a swashbuckler.

"I will be like the home teacher: I will be the unwanted guest in your house!" he declares.

He's also Liberace Dracula in one scene and Count von Count from Sesame Street in another. (Be careful with that number two — the glitter gets everywhere!)

When he takes a series of unwelcome telemarketer calls on his phone, he's hilarious.

Dracula is clearly the star of this comedy, but the standout is Daniel Larrinaga as Dr. Van Helsing. As the physician called to help when a friend of the household loses a lot of blood, Helsing has answers. He's brought all the right props: a garlic garland, silver crosses, holy water and a joke or an ad-lib for every situation.

"Miss Lucy hadn't filled out all the forms for her Obamacare," he pronounced at one point as Lucy lay near death.

Miss Willis is the antidote for the bloodthirsty vampire. Dracula is put off by the servant's buckteeth, silly grin, lopsided figure and outright willingness to be his next meal. Played by Camee Faulk, Miss Willis is humorous with no real sense of boundary. She's fun.

Mina Seward, played by Jennifer Aguirre, is a doll-like character with wide eyes and a fairly clueless attitude. Dracula chooses her for his next meal after he's turned the hapless Lucy (played by Krystal Kiene) into a lady vampire.

Renfield, played by Tyrus Williams, is mostly crazy throughout the show after he shows up on Dracula's doorstep seeking refuge. He finds it, but he also finds a brooding, unstoppable creature mostly interested in paper cuts.

Mr. Butterworth and Dr. Seward, played by Lee Daily and Ed Farnsworth, respectively, try to sort out what's going on.

They approach an Abbott and Costello moment a few times as they parry and work to stop the madness.

Throughout the show, there are plenty of local culture jokes ("She's gone to a better place." "Heaven?" "No, Provo, Utah!") and gentle swipes at everything from Disney to BYU to the parking meters in downtown Salt Lake City.

It's basically harmless and mostly silly fun, the stuff of which Desert Star Playhouse productions are made.

Don't be afraid to go see it.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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