Photo by Sue Kessler
I’m a huge horror buff, and Let the Right One In, the 2008 Swedish vampire film, is one of my favorites – it’s intelligent, well-written and heartbreaking. I’m always so blown away by the level of talent in our local college theater groups, and this was no exception. This is a perfect stage adaptation, and the skill with which it’s performed, presented and staged is awe-inspiring.
Oskar (Caoilin O’Connor) is being terribly bullied at school; his mother and father, recently separated, don’t seem to notice or care, and his teacher, although kind enough, turns a blind eye. Murders are happening in his town; people are being strung up and drained of blood in the woods. Oskar meets Eli (Samantha Fleishman) in his courtyard one night; she’s new to the apartment complex and although she resists being friends at first, the two, who are both desperately alone, form a relationship which may be dangerous for them both.
The staging of the show is stunning. The small black-box theater stage space is filled with birch trees from floor to ceiling; a path meanders along the edge, and an old playground structure and swing are the only things to break up the stark black and white vertical lines. There are a number of platforms set in among the trees, hidden until they’re lit, like little jewels in the dark. Technical director Jared Klein’s work here is to be applauded. The entire set is a feast for the eyes.
The cast worked flawlessly together; director Rebecca Marzalek-Kelly had some beautiful, innovative ideas that she brought to the production, and the show itself is almost like a well-choreographed dance. Actors flit among the trees like wood sprites, play in the snow, beat out an ominous rhythm between scenes in the dark – you never quite know what’s coming, and it’s hauntingly eerie. Even the gore has a lovely, ethereal quality to it, somehow, and her stage pictures are superb. The slightest nitpick: the show is so gorgeous I wanted to see every last bit, and by virtue of the trees, it seems no matter where you sit, you’re missing some of the sightlines; this may be intentional, to add to the mystery, but I wanted to see everything because I loved it so much.
As for the leads, O’Connor perfectly portrays a boy who has been failed by the adults in his life, who is at the mercy of cruel children, who never feels safe, and Fleishman is a wild, feral child learning how to navigate loving someone. These two lost souls find each other in the dark wood, and their performances are so raw and heartwrenching I was brought to tears.
This is a perfect show for this time of year, and if the sold-out house Saturday night is any indication, the word of mouth is already strong. My highest recommendation here – this isn’t just one for horror fans, it’s a show with such heart, and it’s so elegant, that there’s something for everyone.
“Let the Right One In”; Skidmore Theater, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs; through October 25; $12-$8; Run time: 1 hour and 40 minutes; theater.skidmore.edu