Vampire Lesbians of Sodom is a laugh-out-loud funny satire, poking fun at the various foibles of that business we call show as well as some of the more well-known vampiric tropes -- and some of the lesser known ones, too. From an ancient blood cult in Sodom to Hollywood in the roaring ‘20s to a Las Vegas concert in the 1980s, it’s all about fame for our leading ladies -- whether it’s worth the sacrifices made in its name or whether they can keep hold of it with the other scheming to take it away.
It all starts with a virgin sacrifice. There’s nothing the Succubus (a.k.a. Condesa a.k.a. Magda), a vampire worshipped as a divinity in the first century B.C., looks forward to more than the occasional virgin sacrifice. Well, that and practicing her different style of laughter. It’s a hard life being an immortal creature of darkness catered to by hundreds of servants in one of the most decadent cities in the history of the world, and she has few pleasures. But when our Virgin (a.k.a. Madelaine Astarte a.k.a. Madelaine Andrews) is chosen to be the sacrifice this time, things don’t go according to plan. The feisty young lady of fourteen -- be prepared for the glare after each mention of her age, as if daring us to call her on her obvious lie -- refuses to go down without a fight and in her last moments of life sneakily makes herself into a vampire by drinking the Succubus’s blood without her noticing. What ensues is a centuries long rivalry between the two that had this reviewer grinning throughout the whole play.
The minimalist set really lets the actors shine. Summer Bohnenkamp makes for a naturally spoken and earthy Succubus, playing wonderfully off the more melodramatic performance by Zachary Hines as the Virgin -- who, by the way, has quite the set of pipes on him, as we learn during one of the musical interludes between scenes. What little set there is boils down to a projector screen offstage that supplements the insights we gain into the characters minds during the aforementioned humorous musical interludes with imagery appropriate to the lyrics. Well, that and the red velvet curtain used as a door onstage. And we are none the worse for it.
Speaking of music, there’s an inside joke or two for those in the know if you listen carefully to the background music played during certain scenes during the play. For one, the opening theme to Dark Shadows is used when the vampire vixens reminisce about their offstage adventures over the last couple thousand years.
Flash forward to the 1920s. After all, what better place for a couple of real vampires than as Hollywood vamps? The two are found out by silver screen actor King Carlisle, there to rescue his starlet girlfriend -- recently seduced away from him by the Succubus’s charms and connections -- but he’s almost immediately blackmailed into silence by the Virgin in a delightful bit of fourth-wall breaking irony regarding his past as a cross-dresser. But the real threat is gossip columnist Oatsie Carewe -- or should I say the vampire hunter Salazar, who is so devoted to ending the existence of vampires that when he drops the act (and his female clothing) he’s wearing a set of boxers covered in images of hearts with stakes through them. Our favorite bloodsucking fiends find themselves only capable of saving themselves by working together -- a bit of subtle foreshadowing based on earlier interactions, though not between them.
The secondary characters are always mirrors to our leading ladies. There's the guard who moved to Sodom to find love, the Hollywood acting couple who resent each other in their quest for fame but will still look out for one another, even the backup dancers in 1980s Las Vegas who by turns show jealousy toward each other, closeness, and loneliness in the name of devotion to a way of life. Just like the three cities parallel each other as the most decadent in the world for their respective times. And those parallels allow for the bookend effect to work out beautifully – just as the play began with the vampire lesbians in Sodom, the play ends with them creating their own show with that same name.
Satirizing everything from Dracula to Carmilla, the show hits all the right notes. But perhaps the show’s greatest feat is that by injecting the narrative with a good dose of silliness instead of sensuality, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom is able to aim its biting wit at perhaps its most apt target -- the association of vampires with sex. From penis shaped spears to the more subtle wordplay, it runs the full gamut.
Vampire Lesbians of Sodom is a satire of the best kind -- a loving satire. Those who like vampires and the vampire narrative aren’t being mocked here, they’re -- or I should say we’re in on the joke. Clocking in at only 75 minutes with no intermission, it’s a fun and fast paced experience. I’d suggest buying a ticket early if you want to see it. The way the theater was packed, I don’t think you’ll get a chance for long.