J. Sherridan’s 19th century novella Carmilla predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 25 years and is the western prototype for all female vampires and erotic horror fiction, especially those dealing with sexual repression and lesbianism. First published in 1872 in a magazine titled The Dark Blue, it resurfaced later in the year in a collection of the author’s short stories entitled “In A Glass Darkly”. Hmmmm,that sounds like an Ingmar Bergman movie. The staying power of Carmilla, seeing as it plays second fiddle to Dracula, is astonishing in its inspiration for a dozen films, modern horror lit, comic books, heavy metal and video game characters.
This production to my knowledge is the first time it’s been adapted for the stage and though it’s tamer and more traditional than their usual bill of fare, it fits right at home at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre and still bears their commitment to excellence and scares in a minimalistic environment. The Victorian melodrama, adapted and co-Directed by David MacDonald, skips the Transylvania of old and puts us in the heart of the 3rd Reich right up to the demise of Der Fuerher. A young and solitary American woman is interrogated by an officer who wants to know how she and her family avoided camp internment and what her relationship to a General Spielsdorf was. Spielsdorf was tried for crimes against humanity and is currently wasting away in an institution. Despite the shift in time, the tale of the sultry vampire and female empowerment seducing a young woman into a unusual coming of age tryst retains that slow pent up tone of vintage horror with echos of a forbidden relationship that cannot be spoken of entirely in the open.
While I myself felt that a bit more blood and a couple of tit flashes would have nailed it, the hour long experience is akin to a staged performance of Dark Shadows or one of the early Hammer films and that’s a good thing. Lara Lihiya is good as the heroine and recipient of Carmillia’s affections, giving perfect examples of heart palpitations. Vanessa Cate is the curvy and feral nightstalker . Although she appears to be holding back at times, her performance has the intensity required through most of the play. Carmilla is codirected by Mark Hein and is produced by Zombie Joe. It continues it’s run on Fridays and Saturdays @ 11:00 PM though March 15th Tix are $15.oo
4850 Lankershim Blvd North Hollywood CA. 91601 by the NoHo sign. 818-202-4120