Wednesday, Oct 31 2012 12:31 PM

CSUB actors sink teeth into 'Dracula'

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    Dracula (Miguel Torres) takes a bite of Mina (Mimi Rodriguez) in a scene from Bram Stoker's "Dracula," opening Thursday at Cal State Bakersfield.

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    Renfield (Jouche Williams), left, sets the scene for VanHelsing (Joaquin Calderon) in Bram Stoker's "Dracula," opening Thursday at Cal State Bakersfield.

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BY STEFANI DIAS Californian assistant lifestyles editor sdias@bakersfield.com

Today marks the start of the Day of the Dead celebrations, but it's the undead that are celebrating at Cal State Bakersfield with the opening of Bram Stoker's "Dracula."

"It's the Halloween season," said Mandy Rees, the play's director. That's something that's on people's minds. The weather is changing, Halloween in the air."

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When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: CSUB, Doré Theatre, 9001 Stockdale Highway
Admission: $10, $8 seniors, $5 students with ID
Information/tickets: 654-3150

CSUB's version of the Bram Stocker tale -- adapted by William McNulty -- opens with a monologue recapping earlier events and setting the scene that these Londoners have come to realize that the Romanian immigrant, played by Miguel Torres, is more than meets the eye.

Torres, a fourth-year theater major, said he loves his character's worldliness.

"It's as if I were the ultimate chess player, able to see every possible move before it was made. I would eventually become bored for no opponent could beat me. Except Dracula doesn't get bored, he enjoys the cornering of his opponent with a degree of exhilaration."

This "Dracula" also takes some dramatic license with characters, pitting Lucy (Cristina Goyenche), now Harker's (Tyler Andrews) fiancee, in the final battle against the vampire and his brides.

Two new characters also have been added to the mix, further developing the story at the hospital run by Dr. Seward (Oscar Sandoval). His assistant, Sullivan (DeNae' Brown), maintains a romance with co-worker Briggs (Hudson Sanders) amid the supernatural events.

Renfield, played by Jouche Williams, delivers a bit of levity in the otherwise dark tale.

"In this version, Renfield is funny. He's deranged but he kind of breaks the tension."

The slight alterations and additions provide audiences with something they haven't necessarily seen, Rees said.

"It's a classic story and a lot of people want to have a stab at it."

When it comes to stabbing, this show has some of that, too. Bringing in help from Los Angeles, Rees said the show features staged combat.

"There is a little bit of violence. We're fighting vampires. Violence is appropriate."

Because of the brief combat, Rees doesn't recommend the show for viewers 10 and under.

Along with combat, Rees challenged the student actors with dialects. Dracula is Romanian, Van Helsing is German and the rest test their skills with standard British, Cockney or Irish accents.

The actors also had to master the costuming, overseen by Roger Upton, from the women's corsets ordered from the U.K. to the fangs worn by Dracula and the other vampires, including Tamara Porter, Mariah Johnson and Justine Morgan.

"I can't tell you how many times I've been to the Halloween stores and Fantasy Frocks to get fangs and the adhesive," Rees said. "They see me coming and point me to the fangs."

Torres said he's been up for the challenge the role poses.

"Oh the fangs. I had a journey with those fangs and the dialect. They've definitely been the most difficult part in the process. We tried two different putties and then I learned to speak with them.

"I promise you I'll warm up each night so you can clearly hear what I am saying."

The show, which features original music from CSUB professor Jim Scully, also stars Mimi Rodriguez and Alejandro Garcia.

If you have any hesitation about seeing the show, take this recommendation from Dracula himself.

"Theater should be part of everyone's lives. You should watch at least two shows a year. One should be your 'work-out' show, the show that engages you every second. ... The other should be your 'cheat-day' show, the show where you can sit back, relax and let the actors take the reins.

"'Dracula' is the latter, and it comes at a nice time as well: right when you should take a break from your studies and relax."

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