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Review: When the ‘Right One’ wants to suck your blood, can love conquer all at City College?

THEATER REVIEW

‘Do I smell better?” the vampire asks her boyfriend.

She does.

Such is the whiff of “teen” romance to be discovered in Fresno City College’s “Let the Right One In,” an adaptation of a popular Swedish novel about a 400-year-old person — we’re living in gender-fluid times, after all — who falls for the outcast boy who lives next door. In the 1580s, it’s a safe bet that personal hygiene was not up to 20th century standards. Everyone stunk back then. Now, even vampires have to worry about deodorant.

I mostly like this weird and bloody production, directed with pizzazz by Charles Erven, partly because it’s so different. It isn’t every day onstage that you see a murder victim hung upside down like a pig so the blood can drain into a takeaway container.


Related story: For Alexis Macedo, Fresno City’s ‘Let the Right One In’ means having a bloody good time

Audiences are accustomed to seeing things done in theatrical ways in a live stage setting — lots of imagination, symbolism and cleverness involved — but it’s far less common to see a production that insists upon a more cinematic nature. “Let the Right One In” feels very much like a movie, with quick scenes and swift transitions. There are lots of clever effects (and some gore), all of which have to be handled on a “live” basis. There is no leisurely reshooting, editing in post-production or playing with camera angles. Things happen now.

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Was I totally caught up in the love story between Eli (a wonderful Alexis Elisa Macedo), the eventually-not-so-smelly gal next door, and Oskar (Claudio Laso, also very good), the bullied high-school boy who falls for her? Um, maybe not so much. And was I enraptured with the play’s narrative focus on vampires and the pitfalls of running into hungry ones? Again, not really my thing.

Pictured above: Alexis Elisa Macedo plays Eli in ‘Let the Right One In.’  Photo: Mark Tabay, Fresno City College

I’ve just never been that intrigued with the Vampire Industrial Complex. Part of me wonders if the creatures just have a really good public-relations firm behind them, considering how they prevalent they are in popular culture. They just don’t scare me. As I was watching the production, it’s not as if a small corner of my mind was fretting about protecting my blood supply from foreign attack. (Actually, I was a lot more worried about freezing to death at the Sunday matinee; the air conditioner was on the Arctic blast setting.)

Still, there’s a lot to enjoy about the production. Macedo is fascinating in the leading role. She moves like a dancer, but there’s a creaky, aged bounce to her step. I love what she does with her voice, husking it down to seriously creepy levels, and often there’s a blankness in her eyes that suggests someone who either 1) has taken countless lives in the name of nutritional necessity; or 2) has watched way too many reruns of “Jersey Shore.” She almost makes me believe.

Laso has fun with his vocals, too, playing years younger than himself, and he brings a curious, sullen naivete to the role as his character endures horrific bullying. Michael Peterson does some great work as the vampire’s version of a human Siri — he kills Eli’s dinner and probably even washes her windows, too — as does James Anderson and Chris Ortiz Belcher as the worst of the bullies. Christy Ania Hathaway is a standout as Oskar’s boozy mother, and Steven San Sebastian gives a nuanced and affecting performance as Oskar’s dad.


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Fredrick McCarty has some uneven moments as a police chief, but he’s very strong in a dual role as a swim coach. (He also gets to do a pretty spectacular costume-and-character quick change right in front of the audience.)

The creative team obviously relished this show, with Christina McCollam-Martinez’s scenic and lighting design capturing the vaguely dehumanizing vibe of the 1980s Swedish housing project in winter and Debra Erven’s costumes the far-north chill of the locale. A special shout-out, of course, to Jennifer Smith’s makeup and special effects, along with fight choreographer KP Phagnasay, gymnastics trainer Kyle Carlson and choreographer Cristal Tiscareno, all of whom give the production the fluidity of, well, a swooping bat.

And then there’s the surprise set piece — the one that should land McCollam-Martinez (I’m assuming, and all others responsible) in a scenic design hall of fame. (If you have not yet seen the final performances, a huge spoiler alert: Don’t continue reading if you care about such things.) Near the end of the show, a swimming pool is revealed. Yes, with real water, and a see-through glass wall so the audience can see what’s happening within. Granted, it isn’t very big and is more like a swimming cube — you could call it a lap pool for San Franciscans — but it is big-deal impressive. I sat there in awe, grinning in amazement.

For the first time ever, then, a Fresno City College play could have a hot-tub cast party on the stage itself. I think even a 400-year-old vampire would be bloody excited about that.


Show info

‘Let the Right One In,’ through Oct. 12, Fresno City College Theatre. Tickets are $14, $12 students and seniors.


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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