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Blog Less Traveled: Vampirism rules in St.Nicholas

Vampirism begins at home: Buffalo theatre district gets a little bloodier this winter.

blog by Road Less Traveled Productions  • 

In early 1970, there was a highly unusual media flap in England that temporarily made daily papers fly off the newsstands. The story: that a genuine, authentic, honest-to-goodness vampire haunted London’s Highgate Cemetery.

Amateur vampire hunters flocked in large numbers to the cemetery. One of them, a local named Sean Manchester, turned rumors of the “Highgate Vampire” into a lucrative career as an author of True Stories Of The Occult! Among his claims: that he’d personally exterminated a whole nest of vampires in the Highgate neighborhood.

After a few months, London cooled on the notion of their own modern Count Draculas and Countess Bathories. But then, in January 2005, a whole new series of whispers and ruminations began to percolate…

Supposedly an unidentified attacker had bitten a number of people in Birmingham, England, fueling brand new concerns about a nosferatu roaming U.K. streets.  Local police went out of their way to state that no such attacks had actually been reported… but you know how hard it is to stamp out a good urban legend once it gets a head of steam and a mouthful of plasma…

Now – do I have your attention? Good. Let’s talk about something important. No, it’s not Halloween, and no, I haven’t just gone on a True Blood bender. I’m just jumping out of my crypt with excitement about Road Less Traveled Productions’ upcoming offering of Conor McPherson’s St. Nicholas, directed by RLTP Artistic Director Scott Behrend and starring Irish Classical Theatre Company co-founder, artistic director and resident actor Vincent O’Neill.

I’m excited for two reasons.

Number one: I know that this first-ever collaboration between Scott and Vincent has been a long time in coming. Scott always makes sure to credit Vincent as one of the first guys in Western New York who believed in him when he graduated from college and gave him opportunities to work in local theatre. Scott designed sets for Irish Classical for almost five years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and talks about spending a lot of time on the job admiring Vincent’s world-class work as an actor… and thinking about how much he’d enjoy directing him one day. It took Scott and Vincent a lot of years and a lot of brainstorming to finally settle on an ideal project for the two of them to work on together, and I’m confident that St. Nicholas will have been worth the wait.

Number two: I’ve been a Conor McPherson fan since Scott designed the set for Irish’s production of The Weir back in 2001. It’s a deceptively simple play—really just an hour and a half in the life of a small group of men having a few drinks at a rural Irish pub and telling each other a few tall tales—but what a gripping evening of theatre it became in the hands of director Derek Campbell and the terrific cast, which included Vincent and another very fine local actor, our good friend Gerry Maher. If you saw The Weir, then you’ll probably agree that the low-key yet incredibly chilling ghost story that Gerry tells his friends remains, more than 10 years later, one of the most unforgettable experiences you’ve ever had in a local theater.

Conor McPherson has a prevailing taste for the macabre and the uncanny. His plays don’t generally traffic in shock tactics—there is no onstage violence in The Weir or St. Nicholas, or in Shining City, his excellent psychological drama that received a very stirring production (also starring Vincent) at ICTC last season.

Instead, McPherson is a master of understatement, and of extremely unnerving suggestiveness. There’s a lot of open space in his plays; a lot of breathing room that he leaves in, around, and between the lines of dialogue (or monologue, in the case of St. Nicholas). Actors in McPherson plays are invited to fill those spaces with brushstrokes fine or broad, or, in some cases, to leave a bit of space open, uncertain, and mysterious.

I think Vincent, under Scott’s direction, is doing a tremendous job with this in St. Nicholas. Attend this unique night of theatre and you will hear the tallest of tales told by a most unreliable storyteller: a drunken, disillusioned theatre critic who claims that, during a misbegotten binge of bad behavior in London, he has stumbled upon a small community of vampires…

Vincent’s critic character insists that vampires are very, very real, and that vampirism is “deadly contagious.” Whether he is having us all on with his colorful, hilarious and sometimes terrifying tale—or whether vampires really do prey on the living in modern day London—is for the audience to decide. At every turn, Vincent will keep you guessing, keep you laughing, and keep you bolted to your seat.

It’s not Halloween, of course—but it is 2012, a year that some people predict will be extremely dramatic and (maybe) frightening. St. Nicholas kicks off 2012 for RLTP in an appropriately spooky fashion—and by the year’s end, RLTP will return to the realm of the thrilling…but more about that in a future post.

For now, join me at the Road Less Traveled Theater for a one of a kind foray into the supernatural: St. Nicholas opens Saturday, Jan. 28, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 22.

For more info about St. Nicholas, visit www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org.

- By Jon Elston of Severed Arm Productions.

TAGGED: irish classical theatre company, jon elston, road less traveled productions, scott behrend, st.nicholas, theatre buffalo, vincent o'neill

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  1. Darryl Schneider January 23, 2012 @ 7:00pm

    Should be a very entertaining and gripping night of theater.

    Darryl Schneider's avatar