Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Rebecca's review of Company
The Preventers, a traveling band with a mysterious purpose, are our hosts for the evening. It seems there is a "bloom" of vampire activity in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and the Preventers have come to educate us about the encroaching threat before it is too late. The story they tell hews fairly close to the plot of Bram Stoker's original novel, but in this version our protagonist is Lucy's best friend Mina. Best friends and would-be lovers Mina (Crystal Lucas-Perry) and Lucy (Isa Arciniegas) are spending one last summer together before Mina marries young barrister Jonathan Harker (Alex Lydon), and Lucy chooses one of three ardent suitors. A dark animalistic Dracula (Pearl Rhein) attacks in the storm and Lucy's transformation begins. Mina cares for her friend as long as possible, but when she leaves Lucy in the care of her suitors and Dr. Van Helsing (Sam Henderson), the real nightmare starts. The band members' strange afflictions and a looming threat that seems to be coming from just outside the theater occasionally interrupt the action and add a sense of playful urgency to the proceedings.
Creators Zak Berkman, Stuart Carden, Jessie Fisher, and Mary Tuomanen have gathered a phenomenal team to bring their vision to life. Lucas-Perry's evolution is extremely satisfying and her chemistry with Arciniegas is exhilarating. Daniel Croix Henderson, Lydon, and Rhein are appropriately loathsome as Lucy's suitors, and Sam Henderson is an ultimately terrifying Van Helsing. Director Stuart Carden successfully creates a sense of uncanny dread, but he would do well to move some important scenes off the floor where they are just too hard to see clearly. Melissa Ng's costume designs are scary good, as are Jamie Mohamdein orchestrations and arrangements.
Citing strong and sexual violence, People's Light suggests that the appropriate audience for Such Things as Vampires is 13+. I think that is erring too far on the side of caution. The violence is pretty tame by even network TV standards and the sexual violence is disturbing but not explicit. Every kid is different, but I am confident that 9-year-olds who like loud music and scary stories would not find the production overwhelming.
Such Things as Vampires, through October 31, 2018, on the People's Light's Steinbright Stage, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern PA. For tickets contact the box office at 610-644-3500 or visit www.peopleslight.org.