WildClaw has found rich source material in “Carmilla, ” a vampire story that predates “Dracula” by twenty-five years and makes provocative parallel between vampirism and lesbianism as phenomena vastly threatening to Victorian social metabolism. And the show is gorgeously produced, with striking stage pictures, an effective, emotive soundscape, and smart multipurpose set. But “Carmilla” is desperately in need of tightening and loses a lot of momentum to painfully slow pacing. There’s nothing revolutionary about the story itself other than its queer subtext, and far too much time is spent on explication and tangential banter, not to mention endless slow-mo fight scenes, rather than exploring transgressive themes while moving the somewhat predictable action forward; on opening night, much of the laughter at self-aware satirical or campy moments seemed to come more from relief than entertainment. Acting is surprisingly uneven; while Michaela Petro steals the show as the titular blood-sucking seductress, beautifully foiled by Brittany Burch’s innocent victim, all big eyes and blonde hair and fragility, most supporting roles, from gypsies to governesses, border on farcical, keeping us from emotionally investing in the show. “Carmilla” feels like the beginning rehearsals for a future play that would be both thought-provoking and immensely entertaining. (Monica Westin)
At DCA Storefront Theater, 78 East Washington, (312)742-8497. Through February 20.