Sunday, October 30, 2022

Vampire (review)

 Spoilers ahoy!  

Okay this review is late.  No excuses.  As I write this, only one performance of Vampire from the Fuzzybottoms Theater Company remains--I am told it is nearly sold out and so please hurry to get your ticket!

Vampire takes place in the closing days of the first world war, then known simply as The Great War, or (more commonly) simply "The War."  It centers around the struggle of House Dracul to break free of the power of the Council into a modern age, as embodied in Boris Dracul (Kurt Merril) the current leader of the House.  His blood brother Dmitri (Nathan Douglas Shoop) longs for a more primal existence for vampires.  

But unknown to pretty much everyone, a refugee from the countryside named Adriene (Amanda Vidal) is in fact the love child of Dracula (Josh Noori) himself.  She is the stuff of legends, the Dhampir Stone whose power will reshape the age-old war between Witches and Vampires.  Even she does not know the truth about herself, only knowing she must take a certain medicine every single day.  But she has very few doses left, and no money with which to buy more ingredients...

Now that sounds like a cool set-up, right?  It is!  But the full extravagance of this show pretty much must been seen--no, EXPERIENCED--to be fully appreciated.  On the one hand, there's a relatively simple explanation of the show.  It is a very feminist, very gothic, very life action Anime.  I mentioned this description to some cast members and they all laughed and/or nodded, agreeing.  On another level, though, is is more visceral than that, but in a lighthearted way belying the often grim, unsettling subject matter.  Fuzzybottoms had developed the skills to have the most extreme, cartoon-ish (almost) violence on stage complete with splashing of blood spraying into the audience!  Now, this is simply colored water that will wash out with a good rinse.  But it is does make for a startling and goofy way to be part of the fight, to feel the impact of the battles on stage on many, many levels!  

At the same time, lots of folks might find this more than unsettling, but actually triggering.  The depictions of sexual assault, casual murder and cruelty, savage acts of revenge (a few of which had the audience cheering)--these are Adult Fare. 

But that is not a criticism.  Simply a recognition of what many would like to know going in--to see a huge cast of characters brought to live by a very talented cast (April Littlejohn, Alec Frasier, Stephanie Mayer, Karlee Currin, Christine Celozzi, Nathan Bock, Philip Wheeler, Heather Boothby, Amanda Kaye, Meagan Cavasar, Victoria Gluchoski, Christian Thomas, Lex, Valima May, Monaye Moyes, Sean Alan Mazur, Elisa N. Ellis, and Samantha De Galicia) who do what theatre people do best--pretend with all the power of a child, and all the discipline and awareness of an adult.  Then, invite you to join in.

I really enjoyed their last show.  Really enjoyed this one.  Can hardly wait for the next!

Vampire plays one more show, at 5pm October 30 at The Sherry Theater ,11052 W Magnolia Blvd  in North Hollywood 

Friday, October 21, 2022

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Masculinity is a subject I often think on with a roll of my eyes, despite my own gender.  In fact, going on a diatribe about how our images and preconceptions of what the word even means forever remains possible.  Be warned.  Just sayin'

Then The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity appeared, from the Chance Theatre in Orange County, and there's no longer much need!  This play, set in the world of professional wrestling, pretty much says all I would desire.  Kristoffer Diaz crafted a fable on stage, a piece of ritual about a boy becoming a man, and how that process takes a long longer than one might imagine.  Many never really achieve it.  Most of those think they have, but remain frozen like an unarticulated action figure.  They are boys.  And remain boys--children.  Charming when young, tragic on so many levels in an adult.  Director Jeremy Aluma helped make that so utterly crystal, without ever saying it.  Not out loud, anyway.

Macedonio Guerra aka "Mace" (Steven Lihares) tells his story, directly to the audience, about a little boy's dream come true.  He became a professional wrestler.  Along the way, as he shares with us, we meet a variety of others--not least the title character (Duane Robinson), who as a handsome and charming and super-well-built figure is STAR of this show-within-a-show.  Despite the fact he can barely wrestle at all.  

At all.

But that is just part of the show business, right?  Just as other characters (played by Aaron McGee and Matt Takahashi) play their roles, and in the process are paid/used by the tycoon Everett K. Olson aka EKO (Jeff Lowe), a prima donna (or primo don maybe) who wants money and will do whatever it takes.  Into this mix, where Mace is happy and proud, enters Vigneschwar Paduar, aka VP (RJ Navarra Balde II) with the kind of special charisma Mace recognizes as worth GOLD.  He is correct.  

He is not correct, however, in his expectations of what will happen, not least what VP will do and what he'll refuse to do.  That journey is about so many masks being ripped off, torn away, left in the dust--sometimes literally--in the life of our hero.

It is awesome, and humbling, and beautifully sad to watch--and to take part within, since the audience in this show is definitely part of the show.  They play...the audience.  So obvious.  So meta.  So...disturbing.  Because watching Mace one by one lose all his excuses, all his illusions, all the reasons and justifications behind his life--it hurts.  Just as it is so powerful to watch, up to and past that glorious moment when four men forget he's the one who makes them good, when they gang up on him.  Yeah he wins.  But he loses.  And by losing, he wins.

And it hurts.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity plays Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. & 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. until October 23, 2022.  At the Chance Theater, 5522 East La Palma Avenue, Anaheim CA 92807