When we first meet Mina (Patricia Lynn), the central character of Hunger and Thirst Theatre’s new production Your Invisible Corset, the pretty young teacher is residing at a dreary psychiatric facility run by the sympathetic but no-nonsense Dr. Susan Ward (Elizabeth Anne Rimar). Mina is plagued by vivid, haunting dreams from which she wakes up screaming, with blood on her fingernails. She is also regularly checking her neck for bite marks, and making constant references to the mysterious “him”– an imperious presence who is seemingly trying to tie her into an increasingly tight corset as she sleeps. Although the “him” is never mentioned by name throughout the entire play, the audience immediately knows from the opening scene just who Mina is afraid of. Your Invisible Corset is set in our cellphone-obsessed modern times, but our heroine is being pursued by the one of the most famous and most enduring antagonists of literary and pop culture history: the eternal Count Dracula. Mina’s fear becomes even more palpable when she learns of the “death” of her friend Lucy (Emily Kitchens), who coincidentally also happens to be the estranged wife of Dr. Susan. The wide-eyed and post-orgasmic-voiced Lucy starts appearing regularly in Mia’s visions. However, in contrast to Mina’s terror, Lucy is positively ecstatic from her encounters with the vampire. While sharing her romantic stories, Lucy tries to enlighten her friend about the joys of sweet surrender to the “Master”… and how submission to “him” can be a source of feminine empowerment and sexual liberation. Will Mina drink the
Kool Aid blood and give in to this mysteriously titillating philosophy?
Meanwhile, the audience learns that Mina’s handsome husband Jon (Patrick T. Horn) is a vampire fanatic who actually visited the famous count in Romania several times in the past. (The modern day cellphone mentioned earlier actually plays a pivotal role in the story…) Now, John takes on the role of Mia’s protector as well as the modern-day vampire hunter, carrying around his wooden stake and rosary beads. Mia’s concurrent fear of/fascination with her mysterious tormentor, combined with Jon’s obsession with bringing down this modern-day bloodsucker, are slowly becoming a nerve-wracking obsession for the couple– especially because Dracula, the master manipulator and shapeshifter, proves to be a formidable opponent. The holy water is soon flowing freely…
Written by Patricia Lynn and directed by Jacob Titus, Your Invisible Corset offers a renegade take on the eternal, oft-reinterpreted Bram Stoker tale, focusing almost entirely on the female characters. Lynn’s script pays great homage to the original story, complete with the source material’s now-familiar themes– fantasy versus reality, dominance versus submission, insanity versus stability, and of course the basic “good versus evil”. However, this vivid re-imagining of the classic also offers some unique and smartly authentic twists. Supernatural elements aside, Your Invisible Corset explores the very real issues of consent, empowerment, sexual and emotional manipulation, and even the dynamics of modern-day relationships in an era of ever-changing gender roles. The new interpretations explored in Lynn’s script are more relevant than ever as we enter 2019.
Your Invisible Corset is bolstered by vivid performances by the young and hard-working cast. Patricia Lynn and Patrick T. Horn have excellent chemistry as the wife-and-husband team being mutually tormented by the nameless (and, up until he very end, faceless) vampire. As Lucy, Emily Kitchens has a dynamic and at times downright ghostly presence. As Susan, Elizabeth Anne Rimar morphs from staid psychiatrist to an active member of the “Vampire Resistance” by the end of the First Act, and it’s great fun to watch. Rounding out the cast is Lauren Lublow as a modern-day version of Stoker’s Renfield— described by Dr. Susan as one of the psychiatric hospital’s “more unusual patients”. That’s an understatement… Lubow plays the role with appropriately unsettling indulgence. The sound, lighting, and set design of Your Invisible Corset are all simple and sharp yet astonishingly effective. As a result, the intimate space of the Flamboyan Theatre has never looked better or more utilized. The stage is adorned with actual plain wooden coffins. At first, they blend into the scenery as no more than innocent benches and tables. But those same coffins take on a darker vibe as the play’s undertones of psychological horror become more intense.
Hunger and Thirst’s new production has plenty of thrills alongside plenty of smart insight for both modern day vampire “believers” and skeptics alike. At the risk of making an oft-used cliche, Your Invisible Corset has plenty of… well, bite.
Hunger and Thirst Theatre’s Your Invisible Corset, written by Patricia Lynn and directed by Jacob Titus, runs through Saturday, October 27th, at The Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, New York City. Visit here for tickets and more information.
(Photos by Al Foote III.)