Written by Greg Machlin
Directed by Samantha Shechtman
Purple Pillow Thief Productions
Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org for showtimes)
WorkShop Theater MainStage, 312 W. 36th St., 4th Floor
Equity showcase (closed August 5, 2007)
Review by Byrne Harrison
Start with a few pages from the Cliff Notes of Dracula. Stir in a little 'Love at First Bite,' without the disco or George Hamilton. Add a drop of Rocky Horror. Then sandwich the results between slices of Busch and Ludlum. That should give you a sense of what playwright Greg Machlin was going for with his off-the-wall Bloody Lies. And while the production comes off as half-baked most of the time, it is an admirable try.
Bloody Lies begins with Clem (Michael Buckley) and his mother Elsie (Antonia Marrero) about to lose their home to Landlady Doris (Larry George), who wants to turn it into a lesbian porn studio. Finding out that he is related to the wealthy VonRichtenstein family of Rachvorgia, he sets of with his best friend, Barney (Brian DeCaleue) in tow, hoping to claim some of the family fortune and save his home. He meets Count VonRichtenstein VII (Thomas Lash) and his daughter Nina (Elaine Matthews), with whom he becomes smitten. It is obvious to everyone but Clem that both Nina and her father are vampires. In fact, Rachvorgia is practically devoid of human life. So the Count decides to use Clem to get to America, where there are necks aplenty just waiting to be bitten.
Bloody Lies features some fine acting, most of it on the part of the Rachvorgians. Carrie Cimma and Gabe Belyeu as the Count's servants, Simparticus and Renfield, are gleefully maniacal during their scenes. Belyeu in particular chews the scenery with wild abandon, which is really what this play calls for. Lash and Matthews play the vampire father/daughter team with aplomb. Matthews is especially amusing as the pampered, wise-cracking, vampire princess. Michael Buckley, as the clueless Clem, often struggles to match Matthews' intensity, but he does a good job overall. Some other actors give it their best, but the characters are underwritten which doesn't give them much to do. Marlene Morreis as Druscilla, a bewildering and mostly unnecessary cross between Laura Croft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a prime example; she played the part gamely, but there was little there for her to work with. A similarly bewildering character is Brian DeCaleue's Barney. Due to an early trauma, he can only say one word, "Barney," and while this is appropriately absurd, given the nature of the play, a little bit goes a very, very long way.
As is often the case in festivals, the production values for Bloody Lies were fairly low. Curtains and rehearsal cubes make up the majority of the set. For a production like this which jumps around from one location to another fairly quickly, this seems appropriate, though director Samantha Shechtman doesn't use the stage to full advantage. In addition, the timing seems off, leading to some of the jokes falling flat.
Machlin has the right instincts and Bloody Lies has its amusing moments, however, this production needs some work before it can live up to its absurd potential.
Copyright 2007 Byrne Harrison
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