Wildclaw Theatre in Chicago (the name is in memory of Ray Wild aka “The Claw,” a writer/director/actor) specializes in what they proudly call Horror Theatre. Their avowed mission is to “…bring the world of horror to the stage. We intend to attract a new kind of audience which does not usually go to the theatre, an audience craving strange journeys of dread, suspense, terror and wonder.” If this stirs up echoes of Grand Guignol, you are not at all wrong. Previous shows include adaptations of “The Great God Pan” as well as “In The Dreams of the Witch House” and even William Peter Blatty’s novel “LEGION” (a sequel to his “The Exorcist”). Previews begin January 13, 2011 for their latest opus — Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s tale of vampiric love and lust, “Carmilla.” On Friday, January 14 the show begins its run. Hopefully, this will prove many times more successful than the recent Off Broadway revival of “Dracula.”
A young English woman living in a remote castle in Eastern Europe becomes intrigued by a mysterious house guest, the enigmatic Carmilla. As the neighboring countryside and villages fall victim to a series of unexplained grisly murders, young Laura finds herself swept up in a whirlwind of forbidden desire. So the press materials explain the story of their show, which is accurate as far as it goes, at least based on the source material. Wildclaw seems to specialize in the disturbing, the creepy and the shocking. Le Fanu’s tale doesn’t really dive into such waters, but skims the surface. On the other hand, the elements are there to be mined. Carmilla does savagely attack young women and leave them terrified as they weaken and die. She transforms into a cat to prowl Laura’s bedroom in the middle of the night before feasting on the girl’s blood. When found in her grave (and this detail has yet to be realized in any film version) Carmilla lies in a three-inch deep pool of blood!
On a personal note, the costumes and hairstyles in publicity photos indicate a setting somewhere near the Regency Period (roughly 1790 to 1815), the era of Jane Austen and Frankenstein, a little bit before “Jane Eyre” or “Wuthering Heights.” Given my own interest in that period, how can I not approve? Was this inspired in any way by the wave of best-selling works like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” or (to my mind, superior) “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”? Maybe. Or perhaps that is just a coincidence. Hard to see how it matters really.
Then again, Regency ladies wore their hair up and their throat exposed. Reason enough right there!
During the run, Wildclaw has other events going hand-in-hand with “Carmilla.” There will be a screening of “Lets Scare Jessica To Death” (one of Stephen King’s Top Ten Horror movies, another tale of terror and a woman falling into a female vampire’s snares). Plus a panel discussion of Women In Horror, including L.A. Banks (author of The Vampire Huntress Legend series). Something special is planned for Valentine’s Day, but details are not yet available.
Back when I read about the new (now ended) revival of “Dracula,” I found myself longing to visit the Big Apple. Now, the same desire is aimed at the Second City, especially since this is a new play based on a less-often-adapted classic. More, a personal favorite.
In this age of the internet, a stage play can also have a trailer. Here you can find the one for “Carmilla” with its catchy tagline… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tasLTqejfgc