“The Vampires was written in 1984 but seems like a very contemporary play,” says director Robert Gross, professor of theatre. “It’s very much about the desire to be a celebrity, to be known, and how superficial desires eat away at deeper needs. The vampires in the play are less literal vampires than people who live off each other for private and insidious reasons.”
Juxtaposing a drama critic determined to become a vampire with his brother, who is determined to become a playwright, Harry Kondoleon’s “The Vampires” mixes wicked humor, grotesquerie and moral indignation in a diabolical theatrical cocktail.
“We did a Kondoleon play, House Guests, in 2002, and it seemed like time to come back and do another,” Gross says. “He is a fascinating playwright. He had a very individual vision, which unites a very wicked sense of humor with deep spiritual concerns.”
Alex Johnson ’11, who plays Ian, the vampire, agrees. “‘The Vampires’ is a complicated show to put on in the sense that it is part absurdist comedy and part drama,” says Johnson. “The play deals with eccentric comedy surrounding serious family issues, and distinguishing the areas where humor intersects with tragedy is difficult.”
Now in the midst of rehearsal, other cast members include Vienna Farlow ’12, Abigail Kent ’12, G. K. Lyttle ’10, Max Pitts ’12 and Jordan Youngmann ’10. The sets are being designed by William Burd, the Bartlett Theatre’s technical director, and Reina Apraez ’11.
“The nature of the rehearsal processes is one where everyone is open to listening to ideas from everyone else,” Gross says. “We’re all working together to create a world, and to create that world we need to be as specific as possible. Kondoleon’s plays in particular must be performed with incredible precision. There needs to be a sense of the actors being very much in control. The actors really put on a slalom course, which is very exciting.”
“What is most exciting is the elaborate set,” Johnson says. “It is literally an actor’s playground upon which creative ideas are born. Every feature of the set is eventually used during the play to its fullest potential, including a life-sized coffin.”
Sponsored by the HWS Theatre Program, “The Vampires” will premiere Thursday, Feb. 11 and will run the following two evenings in the Bartlett Theatre at 7 p.m. Admission is free for HWS students, $5 for the general public.