Vampire, the latest effort from Fuzzy Bottoms Theatre Company, takes what sounds like a explosive premise – a war between witches and vampires in London in the shadow of World War I – and mutes it with an overabundance of exposition, back stories, and discursions. In fact, the narrative is so overloaded with subplots that the main plot never comes into focus. With a run-time approaching three hours (including intermission), the play feels both over-extended and weirdly truncated – like a long-form television series condensed into a single sitting (imagine eight seasons of Game of Thrones cut down to a three-hour movie).
The script has an promising idea at its core, presenting a new mythology that traces witchcraft and vampirism back to the Garden of Eden and imagines a millennia-long conflict between the rival camps: the first representing a masculine death wish, the later cast as nurturing life-givers. Unfortunately, once the idea is set up in an overly long prologue, the central protagonist is shuttled around stage almost at random, disappearing for long stretches while other characters weave narrative threads that never fully knit. Consequently, characters have to explain themselves on an almost scene-by-scene basis because their previous behavior does not always explain their current actions. The result becomes unintentionally funny when the audience supposed to be invested in relationships that have never been established, prompting chuckles as characters who have barely shared the stage proclaim their eternal love.
The world-building is equally unclear. Apparently, the Dracula clan lives openly in London, but no one is particularly worried that these foreigners with Eastern European accents might be spies for the Central Powers warring on the Continent – which is weird, because our heroine, Adriene (Amanda Vidal) is accused of being a spy even though she has been living in England most of her life and speaks with a British accent. Even weirder, everyone seems to know the Draculas are vampires, and almost no one seems to mind.
During Vampire‘s second act, the story eventually gets around to dealing with Adriene, the hybrid daughter of a witch and the late patriarch of the Dracula family. Her dual nature is supposed to tip the balance in the vampire-witch war – either that or restore balance to the Force. In any case, there really is no all-out vampire-witch war; it’s more like a few skirmishes as characters try to sort out what’s what role Adriene will play in what’s happening – that is, when they’re not going off on tangents about being forced into an arranged marriage or being Dracula’s overlooked second son.
Although the cast is actually rather good, the overabundance of extraneous motivations leaves the main characters too ill-defined; however, we did enjoy the glowering presence of Nathan Douglas Shoop as the resentful second son of Dracula. In what is notionally the lead role, there is little Vidal can do with Adriene, who remains clueless about her nature till near the end (despite having total-recall of what happened to her as a baby). When the character finally comes to terms with herself, it is expressed through monologues without a consequential dramatic choice, so the story ends up being resolved too easily.
Unburdened by these complications, the supporting players come off better: Heather Boothby and Amanda Kaye have a great time as a pair of vampire sisters who simply enjoy being wicked, and Kurt Merril is a hoot as Boris, a vampire who alternates between suffering hypochondria and quoting Shakespeare, regardless of what’s happening around him. It’s almost as if the character’s disengagement from the plot insulates him from convolutions blurring the other characters (though even his comic relief wears itself a little thin after awhile).
Vampire‘s soap opera drama is frequently interrupted by some interesting fight scenes, with martial arts choreography that suggests a stylized dance. There is also lots of blood spattering viewers in the front row “splash zone” (it’s too watery to leave stains). Recorded music adds a nice layer of mood to many scenes, including tracks by Nirvana, Marilyn Manson, and Black Sabbath. The set and scene changes create a wonderful world for the story to take place. It’s too bad that story weaves like a slow, bloody creek through a muddy marsh instead of rushing like a river to its destination.
Hollywood Gothique's rating of Vampire
1 – Avoid
2 – Not All Bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See
Vampire. Presented by Fuzzy Bottoms Theatre Company. Produced, written, and directed by April Little John. Cast: Amanda Vidal (Adriene), Alex Frasier (Alexei), Nathan Douglas Shoop (Dimitri), April Little John (Alice), Kurt Merril (Boris), Stephanie Mayer (Vera), Nathan Bock (Bernhard), Heather Boothby (Anastasia), Amanda Kaye (Irena), Christian Thomas (Charles).
Vampire continues on weekends through October 30, with performances at 8pm on Fridays & Saturdays and at 5pm on Sundays. The Sherry Theatre is located 11052 West Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA. 91601. Tickets are $20.00. Get more info at facebook.com/fuzzybottomstheater or purchase tickets here.