The Vampires

A nice family-argument satire, but where are the undertones of evil?


Through May 10

Tickets are $10-18

(510) 704-8210

La Val's Subterranean Theater, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst), Berkeley

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Harry Kondoleon wrote 17 plays before dying of AIDS nine years ago, at the age of 39. His crazed young gay sensibility and early death have earned him comparisons to Joe Orton, the British playwright who died at the same age but in more dramatic circumstances, a generation earlier. The Shotgun Players produce both writers now and then -- always, it seems, in the basement of La Val's Pizzeria -- with mixed results. Kondoleon's The Vampires gives us a theater critic, Ian, dressing and behaving suspiciously like Count Dracula, and his carpenter brother, Ed, hoping his naturalistic play about America will make him famous. (Ed is a burly, working-class guy who may remind you of Bruce Springsteen.) When Ian promises to edit Ed's obviously lame script for production, their wives get involved; Ian's wife CC makes the disastrous costumes, and Ed's twittery suburban wife Pat alternates as nag and cheerleader. The play has a number of funny bits, especially the scenes involving Beth Donohue as a not-quite-courteous CC -- "The costumes are staying. Tea?" -- but the rest of the cast feels underrehearsed, and director Joanie McBrien has failed to bring out the overtones of evil that are supposed to make The Vampires more interesting than a satire of your average family-argument play.

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