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Review by Betsy M. Hunton for Berkeley Daily Planet

‘Vampires’ Has Bite At Under Ground

Frank Rich, the longtime New York Times drama critic, couldn’t seem to find
anything good to say about Harry Kondoleon’s “The Vampires” when it appeared
14 years ago in New York. Judging by the production of Shotgun Players that
opened Saturday night at La Val’s Subterranean, it looks as if Rich was just
having a bad night.

Be that as it may, Shotgun has taken the same play and created an amusing,
if largely indescribable, evening’s entertainment which, after a slow start,
turns out to be well worth the price of admission.

The lead vampire of the play’s title is a drama critic, Ian (Patrick
Dooley), who has just been fired after writing a review that caused an actor
to jump out a hotel window. He has also made the injudicious gesture of
publishing an assault on his brother Ed’s (Dave Maier) first play. Perhaps
sensibly, Ian decides that he has turned into a vampire before Ed shows up
to discuss the review. Ian goes to live in the cellar — appearing from time
to time in search of his proper quota of blood.

The play’s other characters accept Ian’s transformation with rather more
equanimity than one would expect — particularly his wife, CC (Beth Donohue).
She sums up the situation with, “You’re going through a difficult career
transition period.”

CC, like her sister-in-law, Pat (Kimberly Wilday), begins as a traditional
female stereotype and, as with the other characters, goes off in various
ways into a never-never land of such remarkable logic that one really doesn’t care how little sense the narrative makes. The ideas are just too funny.
Granted, there are a number of highly loaded and far from funny issues that
pop in and out throughout what — for want of a better word — must be
referred to as the plot. In this production the darkness fades, and it is
the absurdist comedy that remains.

When Ed storms in to demonstrate his displeasure with Ian’s lousy review,
Ian promptly recognizes that there was more merit to the play than he had
originally seen, and the two couples unite to produce an edited version. It’
s a decision that leads to a second act in which the adult characters all
appear clad in various versions of the American flag.

I mean, why not?

In the meantime, Ed and Pat’s 13-year-old druggie daughter, Zivia (Nina
Auslander), has come on the scene to provide as much torment as she can to
her parents. And for further confusion, the founder of the local Ashram,
Porter (Robert Martinez), appears, chanting away, with a number of ideas
that will certainly prove to be of some quite tangible benefit for himself.

The ensemble is the strength of the production; the actors play so
effectively as a group that it seems inappropriate to linger on any
individual performance. There really are no stars in this production.
Curiously, Kondoleon wrote a relatively brief opening which is structured
quite differently from the rest of the play, focusing lengthily on one
actor. It is misleading as well as the weakest part of the production, since
the bulk of the play shifts skillfully from one to another of the cast
members, giving each about the same amount of time and attention.

This litany of facts may present an appearance of more coherence to the
action on stage than is actually experienced by the audience or, more
precisely, by the characters.

They change quite abruptly from one mood or situation to another with no
apparent need to make a bridge or any logical resolution of any particular
issue. One couple, for example, raises the issue of divorce, and then never
mentions the subject again.

The curious thing is that that kind of logical dead end doesn’t matter. It
is the glitter of the words that carries this play and makes it worth


Review can be seen online here:


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