By: Jaimz Dillman
Orlando's new Renaissance theater premiered their space this week with an immersive experience titled NOSFERATU. Don't go expecting a retelling of the 1922 black and white film. This ain't your grandma's story... or your mother's, for that matter. What owner and director Donald Rupe has created (with choreography by Kathleen Wessel) is six rooms of intrigue, sex, and violence that Orlando has desperately needed.
For starters, every attendee must show proof of vaccination or negative COVID test before entry. Masks are required, unless actively drinking, and all this safety ensures the non-masked actors can perform in a protected space. And they use every inch of the space, too.
We started aboard a ship. The main room of the theater, which was previously home to Orlando ballet, was cleverly designed and beautifully lit to fully envelope your senses. Fog rolls in to cloud your vision just enough for the shadows to unnerve. The sound of waves crashing mixed well with the music, and once things got started, they never stopped. A chorus of crew made their way onto the deck, followed by a bit of story. The captain's fate unfolds and we're witness to the first of many kills of the night.
After the cast exits, we're invited to disembark and head into the second setting, a rock 'n roll club called "V." A bar is open and ready for you to refresh your beverages, and undulating bloodsuckers dance provocatively among patrons. The room is stunning, with a center chandelier of chains and meat hooks. A smattering of chairs line three sides of a raised center stage, and again, the music really heightens the tension.
Several numbers happen here, including a sort of "boys' night out," and a solo number, which will have me thinking differently of the song "Cry Little Sister" from The Lost Boys. We're joined again by the head vampire, accompanied by his new bride, and, as they seem bored of all the entertainment offerings, they wander off from the club, and we're all invited to roam the space as well.
Things got a little confusing here, as there really were no instructions. The doors were open and you could follow different characters in different directions, either staying on the main floor or heading upstairs. Each vignette starts as voyeurs gather in the room. Upstairs, there was a cemetery with a seemingly Buffy-inspired routine. Downstairs, off from the ship and Club V, was a white forest, where I saw two different scenes, and then another red room, with a coffin and a hot dominatrix.
While watching, characters in different costumes would wander through on their way to another space, which could entice you to follow them. After thinking I'd visited everything, a couple of other guests were asking out loud if there were any other rooms we were supposed to see. I was wondering the same, as I felt like I was missing out on something, but a nearby tech confirmed we'd been to all the show spaces.
Wandering back into Club V seemed like the only option, so we grabbed seats again as a finale began to wrap things up. The entire cast was mesmerizing, but there were several standouts who kept catching my eye. Culminating in a feast of flesh, you know you're in for something hot and heavy when clothes come off, and thudding music swells.
I'm trying not to give away too much here, as you really owe yourself the favor of being in this den of iniquity to see for yourself, NOSFERATU is steamy in general, but for spooky season, it's wickedly perfect.
More information and tickets are available here. NOSFERATU runs select nights at the Renaissance Theatre Company through November 6, 2021.