Photo by George Wada
My friend Tom Sime, a painter, former Dallas Morning News arts critic and KERA commentator and lately playwright, has one of his plot-thick rides premiering in the Teatro Dallas space on Record Crossing Road right now. Tom’s stage work, however complex, is meant to entertain, and Bloodletters, which is moving to New York along with Tom this fall, again requires the audience to hang on for dear life. I predict he’s going to become rich and famous with these commercial plays and buy us all beers when we visit.
Tom has a habit of using parallel stories or stories-within-stories. I think this is because he has so many twists and turns in his head that he needs at least two plots to hold them all. Bloodletters revolves around a selfish pulp writer (Cindee Mayfield) whose daughter (Elizabeth Van Winkle) feels traumatized by her and her husband (Kevin Grammer) neglected. Her latest story, which she isn’t sure is going to be a novel or a movie or a play, is about a vampire love-interest (David Lugo) and his servant (Kevin Grammer). Both plots spin out in alternating scenes and eventually intertwine, with the same actors playing roles in both stories.
There’s a genius prop, only a little bit of blood and jokes galore. I laughed out loud throughout. Bloodletters is much funnier than it is scary, in part because the shotgun space is so tight that it’s hard to create illusions. The way one of the vampire scenes is acted, the one where he and his sidekick menace his new lover (Van Winkle) and her friend (Mayfield), doesn’t fit it with the tone of the rest of the play. It’s over-the-top campy, even compared with other scenes of the vampire in action. It took me out of the moment.
As Bloodletters nears its finale, you know there has to be one more twist. When it arrives, it not only makes sense — you know, that a-ha moment that’s so perfect you should have seen it coming. But it also has an elegance that makes you realize Tom is more than an entertainer. He’s an artist.
Bloodletters runs through June 29 at Teatro Dallas, 1331 Record Crossing Road. For more information, go to www.themodernstage.com.