A Biting Good Time Coming to Fringe
Editor’s Note: As we gear up for our next show to open at the Hollywood Fringe Festival next month, we wanted to show some love to other groups performing at the festival! This review was written after attending Boston Bloodsucker Bar last fall at The Roguelike Tavern. The show will be returning in June, this time at the Three Clubs. While we can’t speak to any changes made between the show seen for this review and their upcoming performance, the overall concept looks the same. Tickets for the remounted production can be purchased through the Fringe Festival’s website: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/9908
-Sabrina Sonner, The Latest Call Editor
100% commitment is the bare minimum at Boston Bloodsucker Bar. A sit-com style laugh track, vampiric celebrity mock-ups, shady suspects to question, and an all-around quickly-moving, never-too-serious tone entertain us throughout the evening as we settle back to engage with this comedic, immersive murder mystery.
The themed space of The Roguelike Tavern immediately draws us in, setting the show up from the beginning with an aura of fun. Myself, co-conspirator Ashley, and a rare guest appearance from my brother have been invited to dress up in advance, and, upon checking in, we’re asked to create name tags that reflect our real or imagined identities, whichever we like. This soft invitation to roleplay gave us agency over how we would like the evening to go for us, and I loved not feeling on the spot to think of anything while being invited to do so.
The space already feels alive when we start exploring, with friends catching up with one another, a bustling bar, and characters already making small introductions to groups of participants. Pictures of ageless celebrities with vampire teeth and lockers with characters' names establish the tone and hint at future secrets as we go to grab a booth in our assigned section.
Once the show begins, the introductory moments clearly establish each character with an archetype and motive. When the vampiress we’re celebrating that night makes her grand entrance, the party -- and murder mystery -- truly begin. Even though by genre conventions we can suspect where the scene is going, it’s a playful delight to watch. The assembled characters decide to turn the planned speed dating into a rotation of suspects, who will spend a couple of minutes visiting each table. What could be more natural? Actually, though, this acts as a clever mechanic that allows a crowded bar of people to speak with each suspect and not worry about maneuvering around other people in the space.
After having spent much of the intro laidback and laughing, this is the moment where we’re asked to put our (metaphorical) detective hats on. The lead-in primed us with a list of possible questions to ask in case we needed them, though the few minutes we had with each suspect were ours to use as we liked. Each had some suspicious object to investigate, and clear rivalries and friendships with the other suspects. The actors did a great job playing their roles as suspects while also being willing to answer questions and even heavily hint at suspicious things about them we could ask about.
Overall, this speed dating murder mystery mechanic was a great way to smoothly utilize the characters and space, letting the audience have full interactions with everyone without putting the time pressure on them to navigate. I only had one instance in which this structure felt limiting to me, when a suspect gave us a lead on someone we had already spoken with and we didn’t fully have a chance to follow up on it. My group was also placed at the front of our section, so we had no difficulties asking characters questions, but we did sometimes have to be mindful that those behind us could engage and hear given the crowdedness of the space.
At the end of the speed dating, we all cast our final votes on who we thought the murder was. When it was revealed, I was surprised at the intricacy of the mystery, in a good way. There were smaller clues throughout the evening and within the space that offered solid hints in the right direction that no one in my group had spotted, lured in by the more upbeat nature of the bar space and heightened characters. There might be something to be said about the difference between beginning of the experience setting up something more over-the-top and the mystery itself being more detailed, but it felt like just another way that the show committed in every way to every one of its aspects. Closing us off with a final character tableau and some cast-led sitcom karaoke, the show never wavered in its commitment.
I fully admired this show for being fully what it wanted to be -- a vampire, sitcom, murder mystery. And in every way it aimed towards this surprising but fun mix of genres, it succeeded. I could maybe see someone less into the comedic/vampire/roleplay aspects of the experience finding those to detract from straightforwardly solving a mystery, though as I mentioned there’s plenty there in the murder mystery department. For those looking for a fun, mystery-solving experience, though, this show was absolutely a great time.