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‘Vampire Lesbians of Sodom’ big on camp, laughs and ATTITUDE


Vampire Lesbians of Sodom opens tonight at the Alliance for the Arts. It’s a campy, kitschy hour or so romp that’s big on attitude with a capital A. And that’s precisely why Bill Taylor and June Koc’s cast is comprised by the likes of Joey Bostic, Imani Lee Williams, Chris Heartthrob Heartwell, Kayleigh O’Connell, the ab-and-thigh brothers Grant Cothran and Nemo Philor, Jamie Carmichael and Jim Buh-Dum-Bum Yarnes.

There are legendary rivalries in sports – Yankees/Red Sox, Lakers/Celtics, Packers/Bears, Duke/North Carolina, Florida/FSU. There are legendary rivalries among athletes: McEnroe/Borg, Lloyd/Navratilova, Frazier/Ali. And legendary rivalries among entertainers: Bette Davis/Joan Crawford, Sarah Jessica Parker/Kim Cattrall, Elton John/Madonna, Katy Perry/T-Swift, T-Swift/Kayne West. But none of them compare to the one between Condessa and Madelaine Astarte – the Succubus of Sodom and her vestal virgin sacrifice.

Imani Lee Williams plays the Succubus. Joey Bostic is the sacrificial virgin.

Bostic’s last role was that of Frank-n-Furter in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show. He played that part with brooding, raging, bitchy burlesque attitude with a capital “A.” So it’s unexpected, funny, even a bit disquieting to see him dumped on stage (literally) as a happily clueless, demur and pure virgin who’s been trafficked by her own father to serve as the current sacrifice to the Scourge of Sodom, a lesbian demon known as the Succubus. But Bostic’s virgin is quick on the uptake, and when she cannot induce her guard to break her hymen, she resigns herself to her fate, sinking her own teeth into the vampire’s hand even as the Succubus drains her of the blood coursing through her veins.

Reconstituted as a vampire in her own right, the virgin re-emerges in Hollywood during the Silent Movie Era of the Roaring ‘20s as a top-flight actress known as Madelaine Astarte – a progesterone-infused, amygdala-enhanced undead diva in stilettos who tosses people and obstacles out her way as if they were rag dolls.

Bostic is no stranger to drag, so it’s not surprising that the pulls off the transformation so well. But he’s an actor first and foremost, and it’s his split-second timing and deadpan delivery that make him so much fun to watch. He slays the role with husky-voiced come-ons and emasculating put downs like “I’d talk about your cock, but I’ve got respect for the dead.” And when it comes to ATTITUDE, Bostic sets a mile high bar.

So how in the world could Koc or Taylor possibly expect poor Imani Williams to keep up, never mind match Bostic’s Astarte bite for bite? After all, Williams’ previous two roles were the naïve and unsuspecting Jo in The Legend of Georgia McBride and pathetic pawn Elizabeth Proctor in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. And if that weren’t enough, Vampire Lesbians is all about revenge – Madelaine Astarte’s revenge on Condessa for taking her life and condemning her to an emotionless existence as a creature of the night.

But Williams’ she doesn’t just accept the gauntlet. She uses it to punch her rival right in the chops – bared fangs and all. Instead of playing Velma Kelly to Astarte’s smart and conniving Roxie Hart, it’s game on, cat fights and all. But where Bostic’s ATTITUDE is full-on, down-and-dirty, rough-and-tumble, Williams’ is more shuttered – until she’s  not. And then, she’s a full-throated feline, complete with vertical slit cat pupils glowing in the dark.

Bostic and Williams don’t strap Vampire Lesbians on their back and carry the show alone. While the show can’t exist without their clashing other-worldly egos, the other cast members are given ample opportunity to exhibit attitudes of their own.

Fueling the show’s campiness are the sight gags (like Jamie Carmichael’s vampire slayer donning a tee-shirt that declares “Vampires Suck”), Vaudeville affectations and ample references to pop and film culture.

Nothing is sacrosanct. Old vampire movies, Hollywood musicals, and icons like Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford are all lovingly lampooned and skewered. Some of the jibes are obvious, others less so (like the line “this isn’t hair on my head, these are nerve endings” which traces its origins to a quip Phyllis Diller made to Jack Paar on The Tonight Show (if you Google this piece of exotica, you’ll discover he was the host before Johnny Carson (who came before Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon))).

But even if some (or all) of the references and double entendres go over your head, it doesn’t matter. The sum total is laugh-your-ass off hysterical, even if a line or two doesn’t land.

The supporting characters are every bit as endearing and memorable as those in Rocky Horror. Kayleigh O’Connell is a stand-out as magenta-boa ’20s starlet Renee Vein. The venerable Jim Yarnes punctuates his appearances as Condessa’s stoic butler, Etienne, with Vaudevillian flare. Buh dum bum. Jamie Carmichael is menacing as the ersatz vampire slayer Oatsie Carewe. And Grant Cothran, Nemo Philor and Chris Heartwell shine as the buff beau bare-chested brigade that bristle with their own version of one-upmanship, whether in ancient Sodom or present-day Vegas.

But whether you come for the A, the boys or the drag, this show is so damn funny that it’s over before you have a chance to settle into your seat. It ran off-off-Broadway for five years, but it only plays this weekend and next as a fundraiser for the first-ever Fringe Fort Myers festival coming to the Alliance and Broadway Palm in April. The show closes March 1 and the Alliance’s makeshift black box theater has a very limited number of seats. So reserve yours immediately or else you’re likely to miss out.

Follow the links set out below for play dates, times and ticket information.

February 21, 2020.



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