Vampire Lesbians of Sodom | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Vampire Lesbians of Sodom


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Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Theatre Building.

Charles Busch's campy comedy, a raunchy collage of ancient and modern mythic kitsch, is a showcase for hilarious drag clowning and ingenious visual design under Doug-las L. Hartzell's direction. It tells of two blood-sucking bisexuals whose misadventures span millennia. Their first meeting, in pagan Sodom and Gomorrah ("the Twin Cities"), joins them in an unholy rivalry for concubines and corpuscles; eventually the pair land in 1920s Hollywood, where as La Condessa and Madeleine Astarte they become the silver screen's most famous feuding divas, and then in 1970s Vegas, where Astarte (now an Ann-Margret-style stage star) helps La Condessa (now a cleaning lady) make her comeback.

Boasting lots of flesh and flash, this one-act wallows in the excesses of DeMille-esque biblical epics, silent-movie melodramas, and Carter-era pop, culminating in a mirror-ball-lit medley of "Devil Woman" and "Bad Girls." Unlike the sloppy 1990 Chicago production, this cast provides the precise comic attitudes the script requires. Standouts include female impressionist Honey West, alternately evoking Lucille Ball and Bette Davis as La Condessa; rubber-faced Peter Mohawk as Astarte; scene-stealing Sean Stomski as a Peter Lorre/Erich von Stroheim/Gomez Addams butler and a petulant chorus boy; Ethan Kent as a preening matinee idol; and Gabrielle Sanalitro as a gender-bending gossip columnist. Best of all are Leyna Douglas's set and John Nasca's costumes: these rich yet tacky designs, ranging from the garish colors of Sodom (with Mohawk in a ludicrous flower bikini) to the black-and-white sleekness of 20s Hollywood (with West in a truly stunning long-trained gown), are a perfect blend of absurdity and stylishness.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Russell McGonagle.

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