Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat

The Jungle Theater sends Salvador Dali through a looking glass in Lobster Alice; 15 Head presents Dracula as a messenger of modern anxiety

 

Like so many artists working in the shadow of Freud, Salvador Dali was preoccupied with sex, death, and the occasional intersections of the two. The duality of Eros and Thanatos--or, more euphemistically, little death and Big Death--was also a distinctly Victorian notion, and it popped up in everything from Wilkie Collins's oeuvre to Bram Stoker's Dracula, now in its latest incarnation courtesy of director Julia Fischer and 15 Head. There is considerable potential in the meeting of 15 Head, an adventurous troupe with an often brilliant theatrical sensibility, and Stoker's tale, with its Gothic trappings and sexual subtext.

In the opening tableau, a languid 15 Head cast is frozen around what appears to be a crypt done over with a metallic veneer (another evocatively skewed set by Joe Stanley). The actors, too, seem to have dropped out of different time periods. Mary Anna Culligan's costuming, which ranges from Victorian haute couture to Blade Runner dystopian chic, gives each character a distinct color scheme: Doomed Dr. Seward (Jon Micheels Leiseth) wears unhealthy yellow; Mina (Jaidee Forman) cool blue. Poor Renfield (Leif Jurgensen), meanwhile, is dressed in rags and locked in a cage suspended from the rafters. As the lights dim, the actors break their freeze and begin wandering about the stage, whispering breathy incantations.

Hooray for Daliwood: The eccentric surrealist (Charles Schuminski) and friends in Kira Obolensky's Lobster Alice
Hooray for Daliwood: The eccentric surrealist (Charles Schuminski) and friends in Kira Obolensky's Lobster Alice

Though this Dracula seems at first a rather bloodless affair, 15 Head's creepy aesthetic quickly takes over. In the play's best scene, the titular fiend (an acrobatic Nathan Carlton) literally drops from the shadows above the stage to ravish Lucy (Kat Bottorff). In Fischer's reading, the vampire is less a sexual predator than a silent manifestation of some preexisting anxiety, and his appearance comes almost as an afterthought to the existential dread that seems to hang over everyone involved. Which is not to say that this Draculasucks: The count may not have the same bite as the caped Lothario of lore, but he leaves his mark nonetheless.

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