Orlando Fringe 2022 Review: 'Carmilla: An American Gothic'

A worthy message about misunderstood monsters from a pair of charismatic lead actresses.

Haunted in her dreams by sapphic succubi, and harassed during the day by her war-hero father, Laura (Breanna Wells) is an imaginative young woman who longs not to be treated like an outcast by her neighbors. One night, brunette beauty Carmilla (Laura Powalisz) bursts into Laura’s bedroom, bringing Fats Domino and female intimacy into Laura’s closeted 1950s existence. Laura’s new BFF sports unexplained injuries, seems unnaturally cold, and gives maddeningly vague answers to basic questions about her home and family, but Laura doesn’t grow seriously suspicious until other independent women in town start mysteriously vanishing.

This original script devised by Clark Levi and Josh Thomas, which is based on both Sheridan Le Fanu’s 19th-century novel and interviews with LGBTQ+ people, is an ambitious idea burdened by hyperverbal dialogue and anachronistically modern terminology that clashes with its Eisenhower-era setting. Stage blocking is often unnecessarily busy, with jarring transitions that undermine the impact of key revelations, and the big twist won’t surprise anyone who has seen Let The Right One In

Despite those growing pains, this non-binary spin on a familiar story features refreshingly understated performances from its charismatic lead actresses. Along with a worthy message about misunderstood monsters, they ultimately justify the existence of this earnest effort from an emerging group of promising young artists.

Tickets and show info: Carmilla: An American Gothic