“Let the Right One In” is an interesting adaptation of the 2004 novel by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. It has moments of genuine sadness and a slow-building tension that was perfectly accentuated by being set at the grotto theatre at Hard Bargain Farm. A moonless night, acorns thudding down unexpectedly, a moth the size of a hummingbird, some very nice lighting work—all conspired to help create a slightly creepy atmosphere.
The entire cast does a lovely job of bringing this very dark tale to the stage.
“Let the Right One In” is a vampire story. But it’s a lot more than just that. The story takes two ultimate child outsiders–12-year-old Oskar and a centuries-old vampire child El—and builds a relationship. This relationship is possible because of the dark shadows on both lives; Eli is a child vampire and to survive in the world obviously needs an older protector. Oskar is bullied horribly at school and almost as badly by his alcoholic mother and resentful, absent father; neither has time for or interest in him. The themes that are interwoven in the story of these two lonely children haltingly and awkwardly trying to build a friendship include anxiety, social isolation, fatherlessness, divorce, alcoholism, school bullying, pedophilia, genital mutilation, self-mutilation, and murder. The bottom line is that Eli needs blood to survive and every adult in his world has failed Oskar.
As Oskar, Archie Parker brings a resignation and fear to his role that resonates; it’s as if he has “victim” tattooed on his forehead and it’s not his fault. Melody Bishop plays Eli, and her loneliness is palpable. Both of these young people are damaged; there’s a small miracle in that they managed to find each other on the working-class estate they live on (the show is set in Sweden). The two young leads grow on you over the course of the show, until at the end, you find yourself ruminating on whether perhaps they have made the best choices available to them, so go ahead and do what you need to survive.
Jonathan Johnson plays both Hakan, Eli’s protector/procurer (of blood) and Janne, a local vagrant friend of Oskar’s father. As Hakan, he serves Eli, whom he loves, by procuring blood from the living, whom he covers in plastic and stabs them, as he cannot bear to watch them die. Eli gives him money for this, but he would stay with her if she would only allow him to touch her. On his last fateful attempt to find her blood, he is caught. This sets in motion the final scenes. Johnson plays Hakan with a desperation and sadness that is almost live a living cloud surrounding him.
The rest of the cast includes Jeanne Louise as Halmberg (the local chief of police who becomes more and more out of her depth with a suspected serial killer in her town); Zach Ball as Avila, Nils, Dad and Stephan (he is especially effective as the coach and the father); Jenny Liese as Mum; Amanda Connelley as Micke (one of Oskar’s bullies and a born follower); Seth Lohr as Jonny (the prime bully and he seems to revel in his power); and Gershawn Mason as Torkel, Kurt, Jocke and Jimmy (Jonny’s older, equally abusive brother). The entire cast does a lovely job of bringing this very dark tale to the stage.
The show is very episodic; scenes flash past in just a few minutes. At first, it was a bit discomfiting, the rapidity of the scenes, but as the show progressed, it worked as a wonderful short-hand for the fractured lives of Oskar and Eli. With each scene entailing a change of props, the cast worked silently and swiftly on a near dark stage that added to the tension.
The clever lighting design was by Ted Demarco-Logue; the swimming pool scene was visceral and created entirely with lights. The set was designed by Michael J. Margelos, who also designed the props.
This is a bold choice for a community theatre to make; the show is almost unrelentingly dark. If nothing else, it could make one resolve to be more noticing of the kids on the fringe so that they don’t have to make horrible choices in order to survive in a world that has taught them, as young teens, that they are nothing. They deserved better.
Advisory: Bullying, implied pedophilia, blood, attempted murder, murder. Anyone under 17 must be accompanied by an adult.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
“Let the Right One In” runs from October 5 – 20 7, 2018 at Hard Bargain Players, Accokeek, MD. For more information, please click here.