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Penny's Dreadful

Mina (Jocelyn Green) dances with Death and vampires
Mina (Jocelyn Green) dances with Death and vampires
Photo: Amanda Tipton, 2022
 
What is that smell in the air, that rustling in the shadows, as the leaves fall and rot on the cold ground, while night envelops the day? It's Death and vampires!

No matter how many stakes we drive through their cruel, hard hearts, no matter how much garlic we wear, no matter how large the crucifix we brandish, these zombies return every year to haunt us, flaunting out-sized incisors over their latest victims—as we encounter in Wonderbound's visceral Penny's Dreadful.

Wonderbound artists
Wonderbound artists
Photo: Amanda Tipton, 2022
 
It's not as though we hadn't been warned, since the company's artistic director, Garrett Ammon—who created the narrative, direction, choreography, scenic design, and projections for this ode to the plasma elixir flowing in beautiful necks—presented the world premiere last October; but, apparently Penny (Emily Poli) and her best friend Mina (Jocelyn Green), waitresses at Le Bistro Thomas de la Bastille, in Paris' 11th Arrondissement, did not get the message, as we see them leaving work and walking down a dark alley on their way to a favorite nightclub.

Vampires ensnarl Penny (Emily Poli)
Vampires ensnarl Jocelyn Green as Mina
Photo: Amanda Tipton, 2022
 
The whirlwind one-act is 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 Stoker's Dracula, by borrowing Mina's name, Ammon's story is a wholly unique look at vampire culture in a 21st Century hip urban center.

The club and alley choreography explodes off the stage, amplified by Dawn Fay's costumes and Karalyn Star Pytel's lighting. The dance numbers begin in the bistro, where the mood is light and lyrical, with the congenial proprietor, Thomas (Damien Patterson) schmoozing with the patrons as they gastronomize, kibbitz, and flirt to a couple of sweet tunes by Carla Bruni, the popular Italian-French singer-songwriter and former fashion model. Among those socializing is Arthur (Nathan Mariano), who is attracted to Penny and, later, Mina.

Nathan Mariano as Arthur and Jocelyn Green as Mina
Nathan Mariano as Arthur
and Emily Poli as Penny
Photo: Amanda Tipton, 2022
 
With a progression of lunar phases waxing in the background, the girls run into a pack of vampires. Thus begins an ever-intensifying series of encounters driven by blood-lust, sensual seduction, and a steady winnowing of the population, as the body count rises. Amid all the bites and blood-sucking, a unique love story evolves. Can a vampire find happiness among the un-punctured?

Wonderbound's presentation of Penny's Dreadful runs through October 30th. There are a few tickets still available to a couple of shows, but hurry! For tickets: https://www.wonderbound.com/shows-events/pennys-dreadful-2022. To be notified of ticket sales for Wonderbound's next production, Brrr!esque—An Ode to the Cold Days (December 8th-18th), sign up for the company's newsletter.

Bob Bows



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