THEATER REVIEW A Rewriting of Shakespeare
MIT Shakespeare Ensemble Stages a Production of ‘Vampire Hunter’
William Shakespeare: Vampire Hunter
MIT Shakespeare Ensemble
Directed by Sabrina Neuman ’09
Sunday April 6th, at 7:00 p.m.
Within 24 hours of beginning development, a group of less than twenty MIT Shakespeare Ensemble members had written a script, formed a cast, rehearsed it, made costumes, built a set, and completed everything else that a play needs. It all went down in 34-101, a lecture hall usually used for classes rather than plays. A very odd place to stage a play.
However, the lights and the setting made the audience forget where they were and engaged them in the quest of William Shakespeare, played by Christopher Stephenson ’09. The narrator, Matthew Peairs ’09, eased the audience into Shakespeare’s time, making them believe that they knew what had happened during that period. But he soon shocked us by throwing the audience into the story and legend of Shakespeare, not as a playwright and actor, but as a Vampire Hunter.
The plot starts out with a cliché: Shakespeare is found working hard to come up with script ideas and his wife is turned into a Vampire by Kit Marlowe, the evil Vampire Queen played by Bianca Farrell ’11. As she tries to bite her husband, he kills her. The typical story begins to unfold: Shakespeare does what every loving and devout husband would do, he tries to find and kill Kit Marlowe. Of course he could not do this by himself; by the next act he has stumbled, by coincidence, into a bar where he finds Thomas Kyd, a werewolf and an enemy of Kit Marlowe. Soon his personal revenge coincides with the plans of Gloriana, Queen Elizabeth I of England, played by Laila Wahedi ’11. The evil Vampire Queen has taken a political hostage, Ivana, the Russian concubine. Ana Walden-Brown ’11, in her high stilettos, plays the concubine part with the flavor of an interesting accent and enriches it with beauty, playfulness, and a constant flirting with every man and even the Vampire Queen.
Kellas Cameron ’10 plays the part of Kyd the Werewolf, whom the audience finds out was in love with the Vampire Queen and in the crucial moment where he has her at his mercy, he decides not to kill her. Love for the werewolf was more important than justice and the personal interests of England. Despite the werewolf costume and make up being completely believable, Cameron never once makes the audience lose track of the werewolf’s human side, except perhaps when he howled in pain. The story continues with other characters being introduced, such as Mary, the Queen of Scots played by a man — Arnaldo Pereira-Diaz ’09 — who is worried about the secret of Scotland, a secret that the audience is left wondering about. And of course there are the devout servants of the Queen of Scots: Mary Seaton and Nat played by Grace Kane ’11 and Brianna Conrad ’11, who try to find the evil Vampire Queen and kill her as well, before Shakespeare does it.
The acting was superbly done, considering that everyone had less than 24 hours to memorize their lines. Only in one part of the story did one of the characters forget their part, reminding us of the more human side of our fellow classmates. The audience could follow the feelings of all the characters, from the playful Ivana, to the angry Scots, to the singularly melancholic Werewolf, to the vengeful Shakespeare.
The ending was predictably cliché. Shakespeare saves Ivana the Concubine and Gloriana the Queen, by slaying Marlowe the Evil Vampire Queen, whose last words — with a shriek — are “I’m slain” (making the audience burst into laughter). However, Marlowe had turned Ivana into a vampire, and just as Ivana is about to bite Shakespeare, Nat (Conrad) kills her. The audience’s surprise is unbelievable and soon the play freezes and the narrator, Peairs, comes back and clarifies the situation. Conrad, a MIT Shakespeare Ensemble member had traveled back in time to save Shakespeare — and history — by slaying Ivana; he had done so by playing the most lowly and unassuming part, and just at the critical moment he saves the day, giving the audience its atypical happy ending. Considering the time constraints, the play was well done, the cast was engaging, the plot was twisting and complicated enough to keep our attention, and the setting made us forget the present and immersed us in a different time, the time of William Shakespeare: The Vampire Hunter.