This article started out as a review of West Side Show Room’s recent production of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. As I wrote it though, I quickly realized there is something bigger going on here. Some time ago (years ago now, in fact), I wrote an article commenting on the lack of and the need for theatre that pushes beyond complacency and predictability and treads some new ground. For years, nothing truly new has come out of the local theatre scene. Now here we are with those years having passed, and finally I can say that someone has had the guts to tackle this vital missing piece. That theatre company is newcomer West Side Show Room.
As I sat down to watch the show, there was no denying that the Show Room’s physical space was rough. The accommodations were unglamorously retrofitted to be a performance space, and the set was as simple as could be. Very little color, seams between the pieces of cardboard, completely amateurish… and yet this rawness and these imperfections made it feel more personal, in much the same way that we get to know someone’s eccentricities and flaws as we get to know a person well. This delightful shabbiness complemented the intimacy of the small space, and I couldn’t help but feel that this unabashed and frank stylistic approach was, above all things, refreshingly real in its honest simplicity, with a complete lack of pretension.
This being a new company, West Side Show Room certainly would’ve made a big entrance with the title of their first show alone. The name, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, obviously is what it is to grab your attention. However, this wasn’t shock theatre… it was just pure, exuberant fun. Yes, there were some naughty jokes and some will no doubt think it crude and inappropriate. However, those things were a quality of the show, not its sole point. The emphasis was on entertainment through and through.
Despite the show’s possibly daunting title, the audience was much the same as one might see at any other show at any other theatre. It was mostly slightly older folks, probably leaning more towards women than men. Believe it or not, there was nothing different or worthy of note about the people who came to see this show… and perhaps that in itself is worthy of note. It just may go to prove that putting on shows of an avant-garde nature aren’t quite as scary or theatrically suicidal as some of the people currently guiding local theatre may think.
The performance itself was great. Alex Ruano, Carolyn Cadigan, Erin Philpott, Mike Werckle, David Mortenson, Genny Bonavia, and Susie Wallin are all talented performers who did a most commendable job. The show was over the top and ridiculous, but in the most hilarious and perfect way possible. As I stated earlier though, there is something bigger happening. What they have done with this show is amazing, both in terms of performance and in terms of larger culture. Something like this has been overdue for far too long. Frankly, as a local arts community (myself being included in that group), we should all be ashamed it took this long. However, we are now witnessing a void beginning to be filled. It is so refreshing to see a theatre whose main purpose is to create, uninhibited by fear. Fear is something that unfortunately is preventing many local theatres from reaching their true artistic potential. Not here, though.
To the cast of the show, I say congratulations on a job well done. To West Side Show Room, above all I say thank you! Yes, with an exclamation point. I hope you will continue to produce this unique niche of theatre that has been missing in the stateline for much too long. I hope you will continue to present shows as funny as this one was. I hope you will also branch out and do some dramas as well, perhaps something like Marisol or How I Learned to Drive. To the other theatres in the area, I say take notice. You could learn a thing or two from these folks. To you reading this (especially the younger folks who may be disappointed with the current state of theatre here), I say go see the Show Room’s next production. They will be performing Joshua Conkel’s Milk Milk Lemonade March 6th through 15th.
Finally, a theatre with the guts to pull off something amazing.