Last year, actress/writer/director Lissa Moira and co-scenarist Richard West presented Sexual Psychobabble, a quartet of skits at the Trocadero. The show moved to Theatre for the New City and added a longer one-act play, Neckromancy, for a second half.
The title's play on spelling refers to its subject: a SoHo gallery opening attended primarily by vampires. One by one, human victims wander in to meet their seemingly deserved ends. A venal critic, a greedy dealer, a boorish gossip hound and other well-heeled vermin are summarily dispatched with a chomp to the jugular as the undead patrons muse comically about them. The vampire-as-hip-aristocrat is a thematic card that's been played before, but this seems to be the first that puts them into, as they are described in the script, the "artristocracy."
The script is 95 percent Moira's with embellishments by West (mostly in his clever appearance as a neo-beatnik vampire). To say that Moira is given to puns is an understatement. Her often snappy, sometimes strained wordplay is unceasing throughout the action. All of it is quite entertaining, but its "too clever by half" feel sometimes works against the text when Moira attempts to tackle some weightier matters. When one vampire seems to go through an identity crisis, he declares, "There's something missing in my death." It's funny at first, but eventually undercuts the moments when more emotional gravitas is needed.
The physical production of the work, though, was first-rate. The wonderfully moody lighting design by George Cameron achieved a wickedly seductive feel, with the gallery becoming a sensuous deathtrap. The uncredited set design had a spare elegance, and the artwork by Hiromi Luchi was a brilliantly disturbing mix of the carnal and the bloodthirsty.
In directing the ensemble, Moira achieved a nice feel of stylized slink. She, herself, as the "Lady Morphious," was delightfully over the top in her guise as a bloodsucking performance artist (not the first to deserve a stake through the heart). As the vampire impresario who's going through the mid-death crisis, Ian Reed did a classy turn in balancing a continental suaveness with a genuine humanity. Mark Lang's very funny bartender/bouncer suggested what it might have looked like had Renfield worked on the staff at Area. And Ivy Levinson virtually reeked of upper-class vice as the Mary Boone wannabe who gets dispatched by one of the fanged crowd.
Also, the costume choices bespoke a stylish decadence, from Moira's see-through mesh jumpsuit to the assorted ascots and finery worn by the other denizens. And there was a nicely observed touch when a crasher to the opening walks in wearing what is pretty much the uniform for these events: cheap frayed Robert Hall suit and sneakers.
Given the way Moira's show has sprung up again and again in various locales, one should not be surprised to see Neckromancy appear again. It offers a somewhat overly facile, yet quite enjoyable experience.
Copyright 1996 John Michael Koroly
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