Playwright Patricia Lynn, Artistic Director of Hunger & Thirst Theatre, began her series of present-day gynocentric adaptations of classic Gothic horror stories with the company’s 2016 production of Dracula. Now playing in the Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente, Your Invisible Corset is a rewritten expansion, based on audience feedback, of her earlier envisioning of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire novel of 1897, which gives even greater focus to the female victims of the bloodsucking Count, while interweaving contemporary feminist ideals with traditionalist views of women in society.
Set in a hospital room in small-town Rhode Island in October of 2016, the fractured narrative moves back and forth in time over the course of ten days, as the disoriented protagonist Mina Murray-Harker (portrayed with full-out emotion and psychological disturbance by Lynn) has confusing flashbacks of frightening encounters with the nocturnal creature (a mysterious and commanding Nathan Reese Edmondson) and his other victims, including her friend Lucy (the terrific Emily Kitchens, glowing with ecstatic rapture over the Count) and Renfield (Lauren Lubow, affecting an insane demeanor and a spot-on Eastern European accent that bespeaks Dracula’s native Transylvania). As she is cared for by the local doctor (and Lucy’s wife) Susan (Elizabeth Anne Rimar), and her own husband John (Patrick T. Horn), just returned from a business trip to Romania at the behest of the vampire, we are made to wonder if what she remembers is real, an unsettling nightmare, or the delusions of a deeply troubled mind (a subtle and relevant reminder to ‘Believe Her’).
Directed by Jacob Titus, the engrossing cast moves around the space, in and out of view, skillfully recounting the basic plot points of Stoker’s original story, while incorporating Lynn’s distinctly current spin on their characters’ relationships, and on the victimization, subjugation, and domination of women – seduced, lied to, or forced to surrender, then left to feel unclean, afraid, enraged, helpless, and ashamed (noting that “shame is the most powerful weapon” used against victims), until the “magic moment” of self-empowerment and taking control. The full trajectory of the character development is a smart and potent analogy to the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up’ movements, and the titular “invisible corset” a powerful metaphor for the tight grip of society’s expectations of women, which makes it difficult to breathe.
The compelling story, direction, and performances are supported by an eerie and effective design, with a haunting soundscape by Randall Benichak and dramatic lighting by Yi-Chung Chen that signal the shifts of scenes from Mina’s dark and bloody recollections to her well-lit room in the hospital. Jordan Reeves’ well-executed movement and fight choreography contribute masterfully to the definition of the characters, and his sparse but meaningful production design makes telling use of wooden boxes that serve as everything from Mina’s hospital bed to the park bench, doorway, and vampires’ coffins, and props that translate the time period from the late 19th century to the present (employing cell phones and a laptop in place of hand-written letters and a journal).
A timely and intelligent examination of the challenges women still face in our current world, Your Invisible Corset offers provocative realizations, through a post-modern feminist lens, about the disturbing parallels between Stoker’s Victorian era and now.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, including an intermission.
Your Invisible Corset plays through Saturday, October 27, 2018, at Hunger & Thirst Theatre, performing at the Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente – 107 Suffolk Street, NYC. For tickets, purchase them online.