Last I checked Dictionary.com, a vampire was defined as a preternatural being who sucks the blood of humans or animals, and that's a scary concept for youngsters. Luckily, James and Deborah Howe's kid-lit Bunnicula is nothing of the kind. Rather, he's a nocturnal rabbit with teleportation powers who prefers to drain the carotene from carrots and other produce. In Olympia Family Theater's version, those powers are accompanied by brief strobe effects, which I'll warn you about as I'm pretty sure house management didn't. (It's a common oversight in local theater, but I've seen the worst-case neurological repercussions so I'm sensitive to it.) That glitch aside, Bunnicula is a wittily staged, charismatically acted comedy that'll entertain rather than traumatize patrons of all ages.
The show fires on all possible cylinders, which speaks volumes about the direction of Peter Kappler. The title character is a Lugosi-esque bunraku puppet, designed by Mark Gerth and convincingly performed by Angela Yoder; if you hadn't already noticed, I'm a sucker for professional puppetry. Amaya Eckel and Andy Gordon are likewise terrific as, respectively, Chester the cat and Harold the dog. Eckel is the personification of a paranoid feline, and an outstanding belter besides. Sarah Sugerbaker's cockeyed set, built largely by David Nowitz, is so unusual that it inspired audience members to ask for its design.
In his program notes, Kappler wrote, "If you want to direct a show and be surrounded by support and skill - this (OFT) is the place to do it!" That's a compliment theater board members long to hear. And in her curtain speech, OFT managing director Samantha Chandler asked for a show of hands from people who'd never attended live theater prior to Bunnicula. At least 30 little hands went up, reinforcing theater's future as an art form.
Maybe that's the most valuable compliment of all.
[Olympia Family Theater, Bunnicula, through Oct. 16, 7 p.m. Thurs-Fri, 1 p.m. Sat-Sun, $9-$16, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, 360.570.1638]