Amherst Undead: Emily Dickinson was a Vampire | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Amherst Undead: Emily Dickinson was a Vampire 

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Amherst Undead: Emily Dickinson was a Vampire, Mammals, at the Space. How could poetry of such depth and darkness have come from a woman who spent most of her life in her father's house in the tiny town of Amherst, Massachusetts? If worldly experience was not her inspiration, what fueled the mind that explored love, death, and immortality so eloquently? Director-adaptor Bob Fisher offers a theory: Dickinson's metaphysical awakening was the result of sexual initiation by a vampiric headmistress.

What a dangerous, thrilling adaptation of Dickinson's poetry this might have been! Fisher could have created an allegory about a young woman struggling with sexuality and other primal forces against the backdrop of one of the last bastions of Puritanism, with vampires and ghosts symbolizing her inner conflicts. Instead, Dickinson's parents, siblings, and friends are grotesquely forced into a self-indulgent fantasy featuring a lot of fondling and blood spitting. Ignoring what little is known of Dickinson's character, Fisher creates a one-sided Bloodsucker Girl who could never be construed even as a convincing alter ego. The picture is completed by actors trembling and hissing with monotonous melodramatic intensity against a black backdrop to the plucked arpeggios of bad haunted-house music. If Dickinson is lurking in the undead realm, she should come out and bite Fisher in the ass for bastardizing her story and poetic gifts.

--Kim Wilson


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