Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review - The Little One (Nosedive Productions)

By Byrne Harrison
Headshot photo by Pete Boisvert
Production photo by Daniel Winters

For those of you who believe vampires shouldn't sparkle, there is an alternative to the latest Stephanie Meyer-inspired tween chick flick. James Comtois' The Little One, currently at the Kraine Theatre, is good antidote to the vampire-lite version that is currently gracing local movie theatres. Featuring blood, humor and plenty of death, The Little One is a nice, though somewhat uneven, addition to the vampire canon.

The Little One follows Cynthia (Becky Byers), a newly-turned orphan vampire, who is adopted by Marie (Rebecca Comtois), a powerful, older vampire. After a run-in with the sadistic Gogol (Patrick Shearer), the governor of her group, Cynthia turns her back on her vampire life and tries to live as a human, albeit one who never goes out by day. It is during this period that the play is most effective. How does an immortal maintain relationships with people whose lives are fleeting? And who are ultimately just food? The answer, as Cynthia discovers, is that they don't. After the last of her friends and family pass away, Cynthia returns to Marie, who tries to mold her into her version of a proper immortal.

This leads to an interesting debate concerning the nature of vampirism. To Marie and her friends, immortality offers a chance to better oneself - learning about art, history, languages, etc. One must feed, but there are rules. Others, like the dour Sergei (played marvelously by Christopher Yustin), believe that vampires are animals, created from humans, but not meant to be among them. One should blend in for safety's sake, but a vampire should no more try to be human, than a human should try to be a cow.

This brings up another terrific twist for the vampire lore. After being turned, the new vampire can no longer understand humans (in a sense, they must learn how to hear humans again), or indeed, even perceive them visually in the same way. This production utilizes masks and taped dialogue combined with spoken words to achieve this effect. It's a great idea that works well on stage. Another innovation is acknowledging the fact that language changes over time. As the play progresses 350 years into the future, the slang becomes harder to follow, to the point where the humans are speaking gibberish to vampire ears. It reminds me of what Joss Whedon did to a much lesser extent on his TV series "Firefly," where he created a version of English heavily influenced by Chinese and featuring new slang.

Unfortunately, the finale of The Little One disappoints somewhat. Not for lack of enthusiasm - the amazing fight scene between Gogol and Cynthia features some terrific fight choreography from the consistently strong Qui Nguyen - but because it all revolves around a rather banal power struggle. After some of Comtois' more interesting innovations, I would have liked to have seen a better reason for this final battle between these characters.

The acting in The Little One is generally strong. Byers is outstanding as Cynthia and shines when she first discovers the athletic abilities of her new vampiric body. Though Gogol is a somewhat two-dimensional villain, Shearer brings to him an amped up version of the joyful sadism that he has in the annual Blood Brothers Present... shows in the fall. Shearer makes an outstanding psychopath. Yustin imbues his Sergei with plenty of Russian gloom and stoicism, yet allows him to be charming and self-effacing. Rebecca Comtois' Marie could use a touch more Lucrezia Borgia about her. She and Gogol should be equals in everything but rank; this never comes across in her performance.

Director Pete Boisvert creates a fast-paced show for the most part, and takes full advantage of the special effects (the blood work is especially effective without being cartoonish). While the use of chairs, tables, desks, etc., creates a more realistic set, given the limitations of the stage at the Kraine, set changes take time, and every moment allows the intensity to bleed away.

Overall, this was a good production. While there were flaws, they didn't take away from the enjoyment of the play or diminish the fine additions to vampire lore that James Comtois has given us. The final performance of The Little One is tonight (though I hope there will be future productions), so get your ticket, grab a pair of fangs, and go.

The Little One
By James Comtois
Directed by Pete Boisvert
Fight Choreographer: Qui Nguyen
Stage Manager: Guinevere Pressley
Assistant Stage Manager: Emily Edwards
Production Manager: Stephanie Cox-Williams
Costume Designer: Betsy Strong
Jewelry Designer: Melissa Roth
Lighting Designer: Daniel Winters
Makeup Designers: Leslie E. Hughes & Melissa Roth
Scenic Designer: Tim McMath
Sound Designer: Stephen Heskett
Crew: Doug MacKrell, Devon Riley, Dana Rossi, Ben VandenBoom
Producers: Pete Boisvert, James Comtois, Rebecca Comtois, Stephanie Cox-Williams, Marc Landers, Patrick Shearer, Ben VandenBoom, Christopher Yustin

Featuring: Becky Byers (Cynthia), Rebecca Comtois (Marie), Patrick Shearer (Gogol), Christopher Yustin (Sergei), Ryan Andes (Artemis), Stephen Heskett (Francis), Stephanie Cox-Williams (Flora/Mrs. Walters), Jeremy Goren (Kyle/Jeremy), Melissa Roth (Michelle/Alicia)

The Kraine Theatre
85 E. 4th Street
Thursday - Saturday
June 17 - July 10, 7:30 PM

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