Silliness takes bite out of `Vampire Nutcracker'

A dash of voodoo, elixirs in production

TheaterReview

December 17, 2003|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

In case the nonsense title with its unpronounceable first word wasn't sufficient warning, along came a box containing: a red-and-gold tinsel garland; a small round metal canister labeled "Simulacrum" and, in turn, containing a pink rubber "Voodoo Man" with a smiley face, two rubber balls with smiley faces, red tinsel and three pages of literature about the Voodoo Man (product specifications, a warning, etc.).

The box arrived at the office a few weeks ago. Its contents were promotional material for the current show at the Theatre Project, a rambling, unfocused hodgepodge titled Pferdzwackur's Vampire Nutcracker and produced in cooperation with Towson University's graduate theater program.

The Voodoo Man turns out to be one of several items - including bottles of Pferdzwackur's Elixir (smells like cranberry juice), fake fur-covered diaries and little red boxes you are warned never to open - that the cast of Vampire Nutcracker sells at intervals throughout the show. Each item costs $5, and the show apparently cannot continue until at least one audience member forks out a fiver.

What does this have to do with vampires or nutcrackers? Well, as is explained on a page conveniently headed, "Everything is Explained," in the program: "MERCHANDISE IS THE MEDIUM." So presumably, the show is intended to be a commentary on crass commercialism. However, because the performances are so self-conscious and the show's plot is so ridiculous, the references to product placement and tie-in merchandise come across as just so much more silliness.

Although ostensibly the plot doesn't matter, but exists only to support the merchandise, here's an attempt at a summary. A young woman named Lucinda (Elaina Kostakis as a gawky ballerina) has: 1) been bitten by a vampire, or 2) gone crazy, or 3) become addicted to addiction, or 4) all of the above. Lucinda's brother, Clod (Jeff Hubbard), embarks on a quest to save her. Helping him along the way are characters ranging from a witch (Ashley Sparks) to Drosselmeyer (Ben King), the clockmaker who created the nutcracker in E.T.A. Hoffman's classic story.

If neither the action nor the sales pitches make much sense, it's because the script (written by Matt Sahr) and direction (by Sahr and Michelle Milne) have the self-indulgent, formless feel of a game of make-believe played by children inventing as they go along.

Had Sahr and company spent half as much time creating theater as they did concocting numerous bottles of elixir, tins of voodoo dolls and accompanying literature, they might have come up with an amusing antidote to the often saccharine holiday shows. Instead, the result is a work that quickly crosses the line from childlike to childish.

Theater

What: Pferdzwackur's Vampire Nutcracker

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: 8 p.m. tomorrow-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $16

Call: 410-752-8558

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