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Bunnicula

a Children's Theater
CATEGORY :
by Adapted by Jon Klein from the book by Deborah and James Howe

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Hertz Stage [WEBSITE]
ID# 3563

SHOWING : September 22, 2009 - October 18, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

What’s making the veggies in the Monroe family fridge turn white?! Harold the dog and Chester the cat have their suspicions, but surely it couldn’t be that cute little bunny … right? Bunny … Dracula … Bunnicula?! What do you think? Told from the point of view of Harold and Chester. A spooky mystery for ages 5+.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Hare-Raisingly Fun
by Dedalus
Friday, October 23, 2009
4.0
A bunny thing happened between Synchronicity’s 2006 mounting of “Bunnicula” and its current excursion into the nocturnal adventures of that juice-sucking lagomorph. My little girl grew up (well, grew beyond the strained cuteness of my “Julia voice” reviews of kid’s plays), so I actually have to write this rather than cut-and-paste my 2006 comments. But, then again, the venue has been changed to the Woodruff Center Hertz Stage, the production does not have to “share a set” with a grown-up’s play, and the cast has been completely revised.

And, in my jaded grown-up’s opinion, the result is a much better production in which the highs far overshadow the script nit-picks I had in the last go-round.

For those “out-of-the-loop” on current children’s books, Deborah and James Howe’s “Bunnicula” is the heart-warmingly hare-raising tale of Harold and Chester, a dog and cat living in comfortable amity in the home of the Monroe’s (Mr., Mrs., Toby, and Pete). Into their cozy home comes a new pet, a (shudder) rabbit. Soon, strange things begin to happen. Vegetables are drained of all their juices, turning a pale and waxy white. Harold and Chester get blamed for everything, and chaos is likely to overtake all with its lightning-and-thunder swiftness and finality. But not is all as it seems. Or is it? A gesture of friendship, a ragged acceptance, and a tense truce eventually leave everyone with an almost happy ending, sequels promised and delivered.

Jon Klein has adapted the story to the stage with style. Harold is written as a proper English dog. You almost expect to see him sitting in an overstuffed sidechair, serenely puffing a pipe or sipping tea. Chester, though obviously a boy-cat, is written for a girl-actor, nicely expanding gender-species characteristics into totally new territories. And,as should be for any self-respecting story, their pet humans remain puzzlingly apart, distant, and not a little mysterious. The songs on this viewing lose all the narcolepsy-induced blandness I accused them of three years ago, and are bouncy, pleasant, and integral to moving the plot forward.

Patrick McColery has directed his marvelous cast with a calmness and drive that may seem contradictory, but is, in fact, a perfect mood for the piece. Jimi Kocina and Erin Lorette are perfect as dog and cat, more human than animal, yet remaining distinctively animal. Rachel White’s Miss Monroe is all stout and starch, filling the room with her bristle and no-nonsense, leaving the rest of her family fade into necessary “Yes, Dear” submission. Rochelle Barker, Jessica Coale, and Jess Wells have created a set and technical design that beautiful evokes a grey manor home on a dark and stormy autumn night. The mood is perfect and the tone sublime.

The 2006 puppet Bunnicula, designed by Jeffrey Zwartjes, has a welcome return, creepily blood-shot eyes and all, and is wonderfully rendered by Amy Rush. They achieve the nearly impossible – making creepy seem cute.

More to the point, my daughter still loved the story, maybe even more than she did three years ago (and, at almost-nine, she is considerably more theatre-savvy that she was at almost-six). In a stroke of House-design genius, Synchronicity has removed the first three rows of chairs, replacing them with floor-cushions, so all the wee ones in your party can rumble and lounge on the floor, without having to look over fathead grownups who chose to sit in front of them. It makes for a casual, family-friendly atmosphere that is the perfect antidote for a chilly October night.

And, in this scary world of monsters and villains and columnists, it is vastly reassuring that just because a bunny likes to suck the juice out of a pumpkin, it doesn‘t mean he can’t be a friend. And, for the record, Julia still wants a Bunnicula for a pet, because she still hates to eat her own (yuck!) vegetables.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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