Romanian Vampires


Romanian playwright Saviana Stanescu’s intriguing, flawed play Waxing West
demonstrates that freedom’s still another word for “nothing left to lose.” Ten years after the Romanian revolution, times are bleak in Bucharest: Daniela Popescu (intensely played by Marnye Young) is 32 and single. Her cosmetologist job (waxing) has no future. So her mother Marcela (a powerful Kathryn Kates) convinces her to emigrate to New York. There, she’s to marry repressed engineer Charlie Aronson (a humane Jason Lawergren). But Romania haunts Daniela: In her nightmares the executed dictators, the Ceausescus, transform into singing vampires (portrayed flamboyantly by Grant Neale and Alexis McGuinness). Daniela shouts the date and place of each scene, but this shifting chronology unfortunately diffuses the story’s impact. In New York, Daniela’s sexual and spiritual confusion is familiar, despite Stanescu’s poetic language. The scenes in post-Communist Romania, though, strike hard. They ask: After the revolution—now what? Daniela’s brother Elvis (funny Dan Shaked), too young to have participated in the revolution, sulks vibrantly. Sharath Patel and Lucian Ban’s sound design adds atmosphere to Kanae Heike’s spare white set, but director Benjamin Mosse has, wearyingly, directed his cast to shout a lot. Still, on 9/11, Daniela discovers America anew—and so do we. It feels poignant, and nearly profound.