Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.’ Enough said.

Kate Tresley

Once upon a time, in a far away land (actually, it was an ancient cave in Sodom), there lived a fairy princess (actually, it was a blood-thirsty vampire lesbian). One day, a handsome prince rode valiantly upon a white stallion (actually, flamboyant men pranced to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” in gold G-strings) and swept the beautiful princess off her feet (actually, they continued to prance in their G-strings).

Move over, Cinderella — this is a fairy tale.

In Alexandra Billings’ directorial debut of the “comic mini-epic” “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” characters resembling Cher and RuPaul tag-team the role of Cupid to help two vampire lesbians, Condessa and The Virgin, find love together throughout the ages.

To put it simply, two lesbians find love amidst gaudy costumes, nearly naked scrawny men and a Vegas-style finale. But the “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” experience extends far beyond a mainstream theatrical production.

The small stage is nestled only a few feet from the audience in an intimate theater at Chicago’s Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont. The audience waits in anticipation to uncover what lurks behind the catchy and even unsettling title. In fact, even co-leading actress Kate Martin, who plays The Virgin, was reluctant to audition for the production.

“I had to be persuaded to try out at first,” she said. “From the name of the play, I was envisioning this chaos of naked people and snakes.”

She wasn’t far off the mark. Although not written specifically for the Halloween season, the show exudes eeriness. Cobwebs frame the stage, and cackles echo from the theater’s walls.

The mood intensifies at the show’s opening when a man in a disheveled suit and big glasses interrupts the creepy musical prelude by popping out of the darkness. Ranting at the audience, he calls them “you sick fuck,” and the audience immediately understands the outrageousness that will characterize the next hour. Playwright Charles Busch’s exaggerated production is true to his flamboyant style.

“Charles writes for himself,” Megan Flanagan, publicity person and media contact, said of the Northwestern graduate. “He’s a drag queen himself, and he likes to write meaty, juicy, fun roles he can go into and really camp up.”

And that is just what Busch, Communication ’76, did through his outrageous costumes, gestures and characters. The campy humor synonymous with the Chicago theater district courses through the production. In fact, the actors occasionally bite their lips to stop from laughing at their exaggerated performances.

This tongue-in-cheek flavor, so to speak, gives the show its character. What particular flavor that is has yet to be determined.

“People invariably leave saying, ‘I don’t know what I just saw, but I loved it,'” producer Mike Checuga said. Although there is a large gay audience, the show appeals to a wide demographic — people with everything from collared shirts and Starbucks cups to head-to-toe black leather.

The eclectic audience is a testament to the show’s widespread appeal, Checuga said. In fact, the run of the show, which opened Oct. 2, was extended an additional month to Dec. 2.

“This production in particular is really hammed-up, and people just love that,” Checuga said. “In terms of theater, Chicago is a great risk town, and we really want to take advantage of that fact. Patrons really accept people taking chances in this city.”

This Broutil and Frothingham production marks the show’s third incarnation in Chicago. In fact, when the show made its debut in New York in 1987, Billings played The Virgin and won an After Dark award for best actress.

“Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” is one of the longest-running plays in off-Broadway history.

From start to finish, the audience is taken on a perpetual whirlwind. From the men’s flamboyant orange spandex to Condessa’s cheesy Elvira wig, the show exuded garishness. When the absurdity appears to have peaked, Busch pushes it a little farther. The line isn’t crossed until male dancers shed their Hello Kitty Ts and spandex and display their gold G-strings.

Gold G-strings are (obviously) of paramount importance when achieving that quintessential “happily ever after” feel, just as an ostentatious rendition of Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did it Again” parallels the Fairy Godmother’s “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”

You know, gold G-string, glass slipper — it’s all the same (actually, it really isn’t). nyou