Full of big laughs and wild fun, Virgo Theatre Company’s Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and companion play Sleeping Beauty/Coma bring hilarious kitsch to Live Oak Theater in Berkeley through April 19.
In the 1980s, Charles Busch first premiered his madcap parodies in a bar in New York City’s East Village. The hilarious drag shows gained a cult following, and Vampire Lesbians soon moved Off-Broadway, where it became one of the longest running plays in Off-Broadway history. It is an incredibly funny send up of elements of pop culture including old movie starlets, mods, fashion, Vegas revues and more, and the Virago Theatre Company does a great job of capturing the energy and fun of the camp classic.
Sleeping Beauty/Coma is a take on the classic story set in the world of mod fashion in 1960s London. A young, hip girl is discovered by a painfully old-fashioned fashion designer, who intends to make her his new it-girl. Realizing that he wants to turn her into something she is not, she runs away at the last minute, leaving him humiliated. She soon finds fame on her own terms, along with her friends, a mod designer and a struggling photographer. However, at a birthday party for the young ingénue, the old designer comes back to reap his revenge by slipping LSD into her drink and sending her into a long coma.
Vampire Lesbians of Sodom opens in the biblical city of Sodom, as a young girl is being sacrificed to a terrible creature known as the Succubus, which feeds on the blood of virgin women in order to sustain her immortality.
In a delightful turn, the monster is revealed to be a beautiful woman (played by actor Robert Molossi in drag). The virgin manages to survive, but in the process she too is turned into an immortal vampire. With nothing but time, she dedicates her immortality to ruining the eternal life of the Succubus. Their next point of conflict is 1920s Hollywood, where the two have become silent movie starlets. Their feud finally resolves with one last encounter in 1980s Las Vegas.
The stand-out actor of the shows is without a doubt Robert Molossi, who plays the effete and affectatious antagonist of Sleeping Beauty and the glamorous and egotistical Succubus in Vampires. As both a man and a woman, he plays each part impeccably; eccentrically over-the-top in the best way possible. He displays a remarkable awareness of face and body not often seen. He moves in a fluid, regal manner and his face has an expressive elasticity that lends itself well to comic over exaggeration. Overall he is an absolute delight to watch.
Credit must also be given to Chad Dickerson, who displays a remarkable range. In Sleeping Beauty he plays the uptight assistant to Molossi, which he plays with a stiff-lipped, stuck up air. In Vampire he appears as a former child star turned murderer turned devoted butler to Molossi’s Succubus. He plays him stiffly and startlingly, dripping psychoses.
Overall, the plays are a lot of fun, filled with sidesplitting antics and gut busting sequences. I kept laughing from the moment the curtain parted, and recommend it for anyone looking for a night of irreverent amusement.