Imagine, for a moment, being torn from your home at the age of 14, drugged, and forced into a ritual sacrifice all because you were a virgin. I, for one, would be offended. How dare you judge me based on my lack of sexual exploits! How VERY dare you! No, this isn’t a Lifetime Original meets Fearstreet epic I’m describing. It’s much, much better than that (which I know is hard to believe). No, no. This is a tale of the lonely longing of the innocent, and evil triumphing over good. This is Sodom. Complete with dildo staffs. Oh, and musical numbers, too!
“Vampire Lesbians of Sodom”, a more vintage work of Charles Busch’s, was first debuted in 1984 at the Limbo Lounge in New York City. The play follows a 2,000+ year old rivalry between The Succubus and her virgin-turned-vampire sacrifice. Jobsite’s production keeps the design simple, clean, and nostalgic. The stage is black and barren, with an almost carnival sideshow feel. The letters “J” and “T” brightly bookend a crimson curtained doorway gilded in a golden frame. Everything else is the actors. And it’s perfect that way. They each use the stage as if they’re telling us their darkest stories in a smokey bar in the middle of nowhere, punctuated only by their campy glares and dirty jokes. Each new morsel of their absurd past only adds to the curiosity in their futures.
The Virgin (Zachary Hines) is a wispy waif, that flits about stage, cooing in her best Audrey Hepburn voice. Presented to The Succubus by her father, and the people of Sodom, she is frightened and alone, but also just as willing to offer up her hymen if it means getting out of dying. Hines is ever-animated as he goes from sad, little sacrificial lamb, to fiery, classic Hollywood vamp, to a washed up, yet headstrong Las Vegas showgirl in 0 to 60. Each new vignette, brings a new facet to her tormented soul, not to mention a new, luxe wig.
The Succubus (Summer Bohnenkamp) is a forceful spitfire, ready to take on any who would dare stand in her way. Bohnenkamp leads each new persona with much of the same assuredness. No matter what incarnation The Succubus has taken on, she’s still the boss. Not only does she know it, and demand that other take note, but she does it in heels. It’s fun watching The Virgin and Succubus bicker through time. The two seeking fame in the modern eras, embracing the Hollywood life, pitting themselves against one another, in their constant hunt for their next meal; it’s all so outlandish, but oh so enjoyable.
The remaining cast (in their many, many faces) are just as on the mark, too, and effortlessly compliment their onstage counterparts. J. Elijah Cho plays a dopey, lovesick Sodomite guard, jumps on guitar and sways in a crisp, red button-up, and prances about stage in a neon pink fishnet top calling a fellow Vegas dance partner less than savory things. He’s a true renaissance man. Jamie Jones gets every character that is cocky and confident, from a fame-seeking Valentino, to a thrusting young dancer in short shorts, and he does it all with a charming smile. Spencer Myers’ transformation from a nosey, grey-haired reporter to a screaming Nazi had me in stitches; his gams weren’t half bad in those stockings either.
Every era of the Virgin/Succubus saga treats the audience to an opening and closing musical number. A couple songs had odd lyrical and musical pairings that seemed a bit awkward at times. Sometimes, it was almost as if the lyrics from one song were being played over the music of a different one. But overall, the musical interludes were nice extensions of the highly performative aspect that felt ever present throughout the show. Their confessions seemed much more personal, even if they were singing about something lewd.
Hopping from Biblical Times, to the 1920s, to the 1980s, “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” allows its characters to take on many disguises that make for a fun show with infinite possibilities. The journey is laughable, and the script sometimes so over-the-top, that you wonder if you’ve reached your threshold, but really, that’s the magic of Busch; one always knows what they’re going to get, just not the dosage and for how long. In any case, you’re going to enjoy the ride, especially with Jobsite at the helm.
“Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” runs through November 23rd at the Straz Center’s Shimberg Playhouse.
Tickets: $28. jobsitetheater.org or 813-229-STAR for more info.