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Penny's Dreadful

Death, vampires, and Penny
Death, vampires, and Penny
Photo: Amanda Tipton
 
As the nights grow longer in October, certain nefarious noctural creatures arise from their crypts seeking fresh human prey. During the day, these vampires may look just like you and me, but don't drop your guard, else you may not see the light of day, or worse, have to wear sunglasses for the rest of your eternal life (barring a stake through the heart) in your quest for fresh blood.

Le Bistro Thomas de la Bastille
Le Bistro Thomas de la Bastille
Photo: Amanda Tipton
 
In Wonderbound's newest world premiere, Penny's Dreadful—narrative, direction, choreography, scenic design, and projections by company artistic director Garrett Ammon—we have a rollicking tale of what can happen to unsuspecting souls who wander off the beaten path when the moon is full, in search of a fun time. In this case, it's Penny, a waitress at Le Bistro Thomas de la Bastille, in Paris' 11th Arrondissement, and her friend Mina, who walk down the wrong alley on their way to a nightclub where they love to dance.

Ammon sets a brisk pace, choreographed to 14 songs—chosen with advisory from Clay Rose, lead singer/songwriter for the Gasoline Lollipops—including numbers by Concrete Blonde, the Doors, Suzanne Vega, Depeche Mode, Violent Femmes, Cyndi Lauper, the Cure, and more. Other than a tip of the hat to Bram Stocker's Dracula, by borrowing Mina, Ammon's story is a fresh look at vampire culture in a 21st Century hip urban center.

In choosing to call it Penny's Dreadful, Ammon harkens a 19th-century British publishing genre, penny dreadfuls—similar to "pulp fiction," but sold via one-penny serial episodes, generally between 8 and 16 pages—featuring the sensational exploits of detectives, criminals, or supernatural entities. Also, in that time and place, one of the connotations of dreadful, besides horrible and awful, was blood.

Arthur (Henry Maximilian McCall) and Penny (Karina Cardella)
Arthur (Henry Maximilian McCall) and Penny (Karina Cardella)
Photo: Amanda Tipton
 
But there is nothing melodramatic about the show, with the club and alley choreography exploding off the stage, punctuated by Dawn Fay's costumes and Karalyn Star Pytel's lighting. The dance begins in the bistro, where the mood is light and lyrical, with the congenial proprietor, Thomas (Damien Patterson) schmoozing and the patrons gastronomizing, kibbitzing, and flirting to a couple of sweet tunes by Carla Bruni, the popular Italian-French singer-songwriter and former fashion model. Among those socializing is Arthur (Henry Maximilian McCall), who has his eyes on Penny (Karina Cardella).

Arthur (Henry Maximilian McCall) and Penny (Karina Cardella)
Arthur (Henry Maximilian McCall) and
Penny (Karina Cardella)
Photo: Amanda Tipton
 
With a magnificent lunar maximum lurking and morphing in the background, the girls take a short cut, but their plans are cut short. Thus begins an ever-intensifying undercurrent that becomes a tidal wave of enrapturing blood-lust, sensual seduction, and an orchestrated winnowing of the ensemble, as the body counts build. Amid all of the incisors and inviting necks, a unique love story evolves.

Wonderbound's presentation of Penny's Dreadful runs through October 31st. All performance are sold out, due to limited seating protocols. To be notified of ticket sales for Wonderbound's next production, Winterland: A Discotheque Cabaret (December 2nd-19th), sign up for the company's newsletter.




Bob Bows



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