Below-the-belt humor

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom

By Charles Busch
Directed by Mark Cannistraro
SourceWorks Theatre
The Duplex
61 Christopher St. (255-5438)
Non-union production (closes Oct. 25)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

SourceWorks Theatre continues to remold the Duplex cabaret into a theater venue with another sharp revival of an Off-Broadway cult hit. SourceWorks launched its residency at the Duplex last summer with Christopher Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You. For the fall, it has once again plumbed the archives of Off-Broadway ribaldry and brought back Charles Busch's Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.

Busch called Vampire Lesbians a comedy mini-epic, which was no overstatement considering the one-hour play spans several millennia. The three scenes jump from ancient Sodom to 1920s Hollywood to present-day Las Vegas. It is during the Roaring '20s that La Condesa, a Norma Desmond-like diva, and up-and-coming star Madeleine Astarte discover they had shared a close encounter many years ago when Astarte was a virgin sacrificed to the monster Succubus. They are still rivals when they meet again 75 years later in Vegas but eventually decide to band together to satisfy their thirst for chaste ingenues.

Like Sister Mary Ignatius, Vampire Lesbians is almost too outrageous to critique seriously. Still, the company showed admirable restraint with this over-the-top material. Cabaret productions of such campy shows tend to deteriorate into schlockfests that emphasize sexual jokes over any theatrical value. The delightful performances and costumes in SourceWorks' Vampire Lesbians, however, elevate this camp classic to what might be called classy camp.

La Condesa/Succubus and Madeleine/Virgin Sacrifice were played in drag by Chuck Sweeney and Jason Ascher respectively. There was more to their performances than this sight gag, though. Sweeney and Ascher invested their roles with much feeling and conviction ... and they looked quite lovely in their distaff attire as well! The supporting cast was solid too, and everybody's performance was aided by the very appropriate costumes coordinated by Michael Schloegl. From the harem pants of Sodom's gatekeepers to the Flashdance-style rehearsal garb worn by Las Vegas chorus boys, Schloegl assembled an outstanding period wardrobe for every historical period featured in the play.

(The Vegas dance rehearsal, incidentally, was the comic highlight of the evening.) Charles Busch aimed low with much of the humor in Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, and the Duplex production carried it off in exemplary fashion.

(Also featuring Cristen Susong, Robin Daugherty, Kurt Koehler, Scott Susong, Jackson McDorman, and Daniel Kelley. Sound, Mark Cannistraro; technical direction, James Latzel and Thomas Honeck; production stage manager, Michael Dion.)

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Adrienne Onofri

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