Posted on February 2, 2011 by Kenneth Hite
A beautiful young girl, alone in desolate Central Europe. Nightmares. Revenge. Mesmerism. Rationality eroding under the stress of supernatural evil, murder, and disease. Blood. Mere swords against the preternatural strength of the undead. And the world’s first lesbian vampire.
Got your attention? J. Sheridan LeFanu brought these elements together in 1872 — 25 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula — in his novella “Carmilla”, a story that subtly tilts between the nightmarish Gothic terror-tale and today’s “realistic” horrors set firmly in the waking world. Generations later, Chicago’s Wildclaw Theatre company has adapted “Carmilla” for the modern stage. [Full disclosure: I wrote a short essay, pro bono, on LeFanu for the program book for this production.] Wildclaw’s Carmilla is the latest in a series of adaptations including Machen’s “The Great God Pan,” Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch House,” and William Peter Blatty’s Legion that makes Wildclaw Chicago’s — and perhaps America’s — leading missionary of classic horror to contemporary theater audiences.