Vampire Lesbians of Sodom (March 24-April 1, 2006)

‘Vampire Lesbians’ have taste for camp

Originally published in The Tacoma News Tribune

Charles Busch’s cult hit “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” is an enjoyable bit of lowbrow camp. Not very deep, and with no message whatsoever, it is what good clean fun would be if good clean fun was all about sex and bloodsucking.

It was originally staged as a drag show written by and starring Busch, a legendary drag performer and star of the movie “Die Mommy Die.” It became one of the longest-running Off Broadway plays in history. It is now being done by Theatre Arts Olympia at the Olympia Ballroom, an unlikely theater venue that makes up in intimacy what it lacks in acoustics.

The story spans the globe and encompasses centuries. It begins in the “twin cities” of Sodom and Gomorrah where soldiers are tasked with sacrificing a 14-year-old virgin (Heather Chistopher) to the evil blood-drinking Succubus (Kim Holm), a lesbian vampire with a taste for young virgins. Christopher, who can in no way pass for 14, is a voluptuous woman who is, nevertheless, identified as a virgin by the sparkling letter V on her derriere.

When the virgin is sacrificed to the Succubus, who bites into her tender neck, the virgin bites back. Now both are immortal vampires who battle across centuries over young virgins. They meet again in Hollywood in the 1920s and then again in Las Vegas in the present (moving the action to the obvious modern equivalents of Sodom and Gomorrah).

In Hollywood, the Succubus reappears as the grand dame La Condessa and the former virgin has become silent film star Madeleine Asarte. The latest so-called virgin they both crave is the young starlet Renee Vain (Meghan Hubley), who is under the protection of and is loved (rather shallowly) by the leading male star of the day, King Carlisle (Michael Christopher).

A new enemy appears in Hollywood, a Hedda Hopper-esque gossip columnist named Oatsie Carewe (Trisha Hatfield Graves) who knows the two women are vampires and is going to expose them to the world. But Oatsie is really the world-renowned vampire slayer Salazar, who reveals her true identity when she rips off her dress and wig to expose herself as a red-and-black clad dominatrix with a skull codpiece. She’s bad, but no match for the vampire lesbians.

Skip ahead a few years to Las Vegas. The two vampires have come on hard times. The former virgin is a fading star, and the Succubus is now a cleaning lady. The new intended victim this time is Tracy (Ingrid Pharris), a young cheerleader type on tour with the Young Republican First Christian College Review.

In the original, both the Succubus and Oatsie Carewe were men in drag, but in this version there are no drag performers (although King Carlisle is exposed as a secret drag queen and one of the soldiers is of ambiguous gender). Also the original was two hours long, whereas this one zips along at barely over an hour.

The costumes, provided by cast and crew, are outlandish. The physical comedy is terrific. Heather Christopher is outstanding, as is Paul Purvine as Etienne, a combination master of ceremonies and servant.

And you’ve got to love the sound effects that are provided by the entire cast by, for example, shouting “ding dong” when a bell is supposed to ring.

Even the sound of Etienne tap-dancing silently on a carpet is provided by the director, Heather Lenox, tap-dancing loudly on the hardwood floor at the back of the house.

People who loved “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will probably love this show. Everyone else should probably stay home and watch TV.

By the way, drinks are served before the show starts, so it is restricted to those 21 and older.