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Review in Berkeley Voice
Posted on Fri, Apr. 18, 2003

'Vampires' have bite in La Val's dark, manic show

THE FIRST WORDS of "The Vampires" burst from the off-stage darkness of La Val's Subterranean Theatre with the ominous rush of compressed energy like a locomotive bearing down on you from the mouth of a tunnel:


Beth Donohue, as CC, comes into the light in a forbidding all-black outfit, soon to be shortened into a frilly short skirt underneath. She turns on her husband, Ian, a drama critic, played by Patrick Dooley.

In the space of those few opening minutes, the tone and color of Harry Kondoleon's play is set: Shrill. Delivered at a whirlwind pace. Tunnel-dark in its manic comedy, yet oddly light as the train of quixotic situations unfolds.

Ian's brother, Ed (Dave Maier), a carpenter turned playwright, has his self-styled "masterpiece" trashed by Ian.

Canned as a critic when one of his vitriolic reviews caused an actor to commit suicide, Ian decides he's a vampire. He sinks his fangs into his wife's neck.

Ed's supportive wife Pat (Kimberly Wilday) appears and it's fang-time again -- figuratively, that is -- as she and CC verbally get at each other's throats.

Ed and Pat's 13-year-old daughter, Zivia (Nina Auslander), hooked on heroin and mysticism, marries the guru (Robert Martinez) of an ashram where she's placed for detox.

A high-spirited directorial debut by Shotgun member Joanie McBrien, "The Vampires" has a well-chosen cast, good performances, great costume design by Marilyn Stanley, lots of laughs along with the sting of Kondoleon's wildly flung word darts. But to what effect? An absurdist romp? No problem. The real underside of middle America, its dreams, its follies? Big problem.

Plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays, through May 11, Tickets are $18 regular, $12 for seniors, youths and TBA members, La Val's is at 1834 Euclid, Berkeley. Call 510-704-8210.


Review can be seen online here:


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