Blood Countess-Female Serial Killer in Hungary

Blood Countess or Countess Dracula

Anyone familiar with Kelleen Conway Blanchard’s brilliantly macabre writings from Animal Saints and Animal Sinners would know that the true story of serial killer Countess Elizabeth Bathory, could have been invented by Blanchard, as it has all the hallmarks of her writing-the links between sexualized violence, and violent sexuality.

Although it is difficult to separate fact from rumor in the case of the Hungarian Countess Bathory, the basic “facts” of the case are that the wealthy and well-connected Countess, along with four of her servants, were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls and women between 1590 and 1610.

While there were many unsubstantiated vampiric rumors and many tales that it was a politicized “witch-hunt” of religious and political dimensions, the forensic evidence was irrefutable-the buried bodies were found on the grounds of the castle.

In true feudal fashion the servants were tried and executed while the Countess merely got house arrest. It all took place when the Ottoman Turks were besieging Western Europe through Hungary and Austria.

Blanchard drew inspiration from the facts, the flamboyant rumors and her own vivid imagination to tell Elizabeth’s twisted story, starting from her late adolescence when conflict arose over the arranged marriage by her exceptionally bizarre mother, played superbly by Brandon Montgomery Ryan. Ryan played the mother like Lady Bracknell on steroids, unfeeling, cruel and oblivious to the needs of her daughter. With a delightfully haughty accent, Ryan nailed the witty lines with the precision of a Swiss clock maker.

Equally adept at comic timing, Elizabeth, played by Zenaida Rose Smith, was a very odd character indeed. Although bookish, she preferred huntin’ n’ shootin’ and killing birds, but accidently finds the perfect match in her husband, Ferenc, an Army officer, played by Van Lang Pham. He entertains his wife with tales of precisely how he kills Turks, going into elaborate almost surgical details.

Just to make the household truly peculiar, the trusted female servant Dorkus, played expertly by Jojo Salamanca, nearly stole the show, with their dry wit, animated facial expressions, and unnerving explanation of the birds and the bees.

As the plot progresses, Elizabeth finds victim after victim, eventually gets investigated, but the plot does not carry the play; it is the witty dialogue, the intricate warlike metaphors for sex, and the acting. Directed by Peggy Gannon, the cast was adept at dramatic and comic timing, a necessity with Blanchard’s writing as it is pure linguistic gymnastics.

There was a lot of double casting, Brandon Montgomery Ryan makes a second appearance as a sinister character named Fitzco, reminiscent of Frankenstein’s sidekick. Again he adopted a voice, accent and physicality to transform himself into an extremely eccentric intriguer.

Jasmine Flora, as a Horned Woman, representing Death, and as various victims differentiated the characters well. As the one “victim” who fought back, she adopted the accent of what in my generation were called “Sloan Rangers,” in other words, the characteristics and accent of an extremely entitled, privileged,repellently obnoxious young lady from the British upper classes. It was spot on and extremely funny.

The red velvet curtains of the set by Robin McCarthy, suggested passion as well as warfare and served the production well, as did the exceptionally eerie, spine-chilling sound design by Joseph Schwarz.

In my opinion, I would say that the play was a little too long, but the laughter kept up the whole time.

Director Peggy Gannon mentioned that MAP only does one production every 12-to 18 month, this is highly disappointing, I think the MAP schedule should be one show every month!!!!!

Definitely get your tickets immediately; it was sold out with a wait list on opening night.

Blood Countess. A Map Theatre Production at 18th and Union. 1406-18th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122. Central District.( Just North of the corner of 18th and Union) Evening and Matinée Performances. Streaming available. Til Feb 23

Tickets: https://www.onthestage.tickets/show/map-theatre1/658e3a19f7bfd10e346b4b75/tickets

Fri. Feb 9th 2024, 7:30 pm
Sat. Feb 10th 2024, 7:30 pm
Mon. Feb 12th 2024, 7:30 pm
Thu. Feb 15th 2024, 7:30 pm
Fri. Feb 16th 2024, 7:30 pm
Sat. Feb 17th 2024, 7:30 pm
Sun. Feb 18th 2024, 4:00 pm*
Mon. Feb 19th 2024, 7:30 pm*
Thu. Feb 22nd 2024, 7:30 pm
Fri. Feb 23rd 2024, 7:30 pm*

*Streaming available

Bus # 8 from Downtown and the Capitol Hill Light Rail, # 48 along 23rd Ave
Off Street Parking.

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