Wednesday, September 6, 2023

FANGS (review)

 Spoilers ahoy!

No one who knows me will feel surprise that I jumped at the chance to see a play about vampires.

Fangs from the Downtown Repertory Theatre makes for an almost startlingly good night of immersive theatre.  "Good" mostly because it treats the subject matter seriously.  "Immersive" because it really is that.  Each attendee will experience a slightly different set of scenes as they are led to varying locations, watching the story unfold from individual perspectives.

The town is Strigoia, some time in the last century most likely, in some Eastern European country (the name suggests Romania or nearby).  The first character we meet is Florin (Sarah Lee Harter) awakened in the middle of the night by a possibly prophetic dream.  Her father Vasile (Taylor Flowers), one of the local fishermen, tries to soothe her but she remains terrified.  Soon the town will vote on which girl will become the Harvest Queen, and Florin does not what to win.  Why is not immediately clear, although we see most folks seem to regard this as a honor.

From Vasile's brother, Presbyter Calin (Kevin Cook) as well as the Alderman Andreu (Christopher Karbo) plus his wife Ruxana (Erika Godwin) we get some idea of how things work here.  A century ago, the town was under attack by some kind of threat, some horror devouring people.  Until the Baron Luca (Aidan Collett) saved them, and continues to protect them on the condition every year one Harvest Queen would be chosen "for" him.  

Along the way, the town--they insist--is prospering, while Vasile knows people are getting poorer and poorer.  Watching all this is Vadoma (Georgan George), a Traveler woman who cleans things and pretty much is tolerated so everyone can always have a target below them.

Finally, we find out Florin feels deeply for Narcissa (Caroline Quigley), the Alderman's daughter who used to be her friend but is now a bully, partially from the pressure from her family to be Harvest Queen.  The third candidate, Viorica (Danielle Fraser) has a hard-working boyfriend Bogdan (Markus Jorgensen) with grand plans for a happy life.  Watching over them is the teacher Alina (Rachel Levy) from outside the town, and a very mysterious young woman named Mjircalla (Chanel Casta├▒eda) who secretly befriends Florin.

Yes, the Baron is a vampire.  Obviously.  Almost as obviously, so is Mjircalla.  Everything is about to change.

Now that description of the setup hopefully might whet your appetite but what I really want to focus upon is the quality of the show overall.  Devon Armstrong who directed and co-wrote (with John Armstrong)  the piece chose a truly excellent cast, and fashioned a story with an exciting narrative which genuinely plumbed the characters' lives in a compelling vision.  Here is love and tragedy, sorrow and terror, raw evil and real virtue all walking and talking on stage.  Supernatural horror meets human terror, frailty, and heroism amidst more than one love story which very much touches the heart.

Starting September 29, Fangs will being a new series of performances at the Mountain View Mausoleum, 2300 North Marengo Avenue Altadena, CA 91001 Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 7:50pm from September 29 through November 7, 2023.

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