by Beki Pineda

VAN HELSING’S DAUGHTERS – Written and Directed Ren Manley. Produced by Audacious Theatre at the Lumber Baron Inn (2555 West 37th Avenue, Denver) through October 31. Tickets available at 720-445-5242 or audacioustheatre.com.

Denver has its own version of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” We now know where to find them. The Lumber Baron Inn is a beautiful old mansion in North Denver that has been converted into a B&B that occasionally rents out the third floor ballroom for theatrical events. Audacious Theatre has taken possession of this reported haunted house (two young women were killed on the second floor and are said to come back for occasional visits) for the Halloween season to regale you with stories of supernatural creatures. The amount of research conducted by producer Ren Manley to create this inventive evening is phenomenal.

Three natural and one adopted daughter of famed vampire hunter, Abraham Van Helsing (from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,”) have honored his work and legacy by creating the Van Helsing Society whose mission is to seek out, capture, study, and preserve examples of the supposed mythical creatures famous from folk lore. Creatures such as leprechauns, chupacabras, and mer-creatures from under the sea. Each sister takes a turn explaining the history and habitat of their particular pet. While many of the creatures on display were familiar through books and movies, many less familiar were also introduced to the audience. We heard the cry of the Irish banshee, for instance, and learned of Jennie Greenteeth who drags unsuspecting children into the bog. We heard the story of the deadly head of Medusa, looked into the eyes of a basilisk at our own risk, smelled a sasquatch, petted a pooka and witnessed the mating dance of a succubus, among others.

The method of presentation of the beasties is inventive and utilized the creative skills of creature creators Kristin Dallaske, Ryan Wolkes, and Katy Williams. The beautiful Gothic costumes were created by Isis Usborne (who also performed as a Siren luring men into the sea) and Bethany Richardson who appeared as Aradia, one of the sisters. Liz Porter as the oldest sister Maricela served as the Mistress of Ceremonies with her delicately pointed vampire teeth  She was also called upon to arbitrate arguments between her sisters and the Society’s financial benefactor Gordon Cornell (Mike Holzer) who wanted to use the creatures for display or as a unique culinary experience.

I’m impressed with the creative minds that put this unique evening together. The pacing on opening night was not consistent but I’m sure through the performance experience, it will all tighten up and get more cohesive, less improv. There is also a meal option with the evening, should you choose. All in all, an informative and unusual Halloween adventure in a beautiful location.

A WOW factor of 8!!