“Earl the Vampire” Offers Comic Insight at Good Beans Cafe

By Kathleen Kirby

With the Twilight series all the rage these days, the current Flint City Theatre offering of Earl the Vampire by Flint’s own Sean Michael Welch, would seem to be a natural choice.  It’s easy to imagine that the show could be set right here in Flint as five closet vampires appear to be living “normal” lives even though one sleeps in the coffin/coffee table. The show is comic, but can quickly turn grisly and even poignant.

Welch sets off in more than one direction leaving a few questions lingering as to his motive. For example, is this a commentary aimed at the issue of government control or just a comedy making fun of the current craze? Is it a look at the power and lure of notoriety or a statement about universal greed?

At first glance the roommates seem an odd mixture – especially the Bela Lugosi look-alike, Earl (Dale Dobson). Dressed in a cape and 18th century boots and weskit, he spends much of his time in a corner surrounded by candles and antiques. Intentionally creepy, Earl later becomes the tragic hero of the piece (at least it seems that way).

The rest of the crew are pretty normal folk arguing over shower time and whether it was wise to quit a job. Ethan (Gregory Nicolai) and Shana (Shelly Nicolai) seem to be a couple with Danny (Patrick Munley), who emerges from the childishly decorated coffin/bed, behaving like their child.  Hampton (Jon Kelley) may be the dashing boarder-type, but he soon single-handedly destroys all this seeming family tranquility.

Welch’s script presents these characters as incredibly normal and familiar.  Perhaps his point is that danger lurks everywhere, even in the most benign of circumstances, because these clever, witty folks occasionally go out for “dinner” and munch on fingers dipped in blood.

When Hampton exposes their existence on national television, all hell breaks loose. We meet a vampire Hunter (M. Ryan Szukhent) devoted to avenging the murder of his parents by vampires many years ago, a government spy (Philip Kautz) out to enslave the crew for “wet work”, and Gretchen (Jessica Back), Tresa (Ashley Peterfi), and Lucina (Elsa Harchick), three ruthless vampire gals on a mission to save the species.

Clearly comic, we loved the television interviewer, Christy Banks (Tish DeLano) with her droll and over-the-top style, and the two poker-faced detectives right out of Dragnet, Bills (Christopher Dinnan) and Sharp (Benjamin J. Segal).

Acting also as director, Gregory Nicolai moves his large cast around this teensy space with incredible quiet and ease.  Actors pass within inches of the audience and manage to be all but imperceptible.

As we would expect, this is a gory show with its share of noise, violence and rage along with the fun.  It’s an interesting combination that makes for a fun evening; however, at the end we felt the show took on a puzzling and confusing tone. See it yourself and let us know what you think.

Earl the Vampire continues at The Good Beans Café Anteroom through March 12. For more information and tickets: 810-237-4663 or www.flintcitytheatre.com

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