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Let The Right One In
review by Paul Oswell
If all you wanted was to not feel alone, what’s the highest price that you’d pay? This is a question that many of the characters ask themselves in ‘Let The Right One in’, now showing at Le Petit Theatre. Jack Thorne’s adaptation (of the 2008 Swedish movie of the same name) is restrained, and at many times bleak, but with hope buried deep in its dark heart.
The Scandic noir ambience of the film is impressively recreated on stage. The production team uses basic props, but somehow manages to keep things astonishingly cinematic, especially given the demanding number of scene changes. By combining unfussy, practical sets and impeccably atmospheric video projections, we’re at once in a dark forest, a school locker room, or underwater. Even judged solely on a technical level, this production soars.
We’re dropped into a small, rural and snowbound town. Oscar (Dalton Major) is an older teen, an only child with a caring but alcoholic mother (Wendy Miklovic). He is relentlessly bullied by his peers. Eli (Caylee Sanders) is a young girl around his age, who moves in next door with an adult man, Hakan (Mike Harkins), who we presume to be her father. She has strange mannerisms, and appears to live almost outside of time, like an intelligent alien. Oscar and Eli cautiously bond as outcasts. Meanwhile, blood-drained corpses start to appear as a series of grisly murders has the town understandably on edge.
A supernatural element unfolds gradually, and as both Oscar and Eli’s situations become increasingly fraught, they are drawn closer together, at the same time being forced to make some dramatically adult decisions. Salvatore Mannino’s direction has a satisfying, patient delicacy to it, allowing scenes to breathe when necessary, exploring the nuances of what it really means when you commit to loving a son, a friend, a partner, a soul mate.
Major and Sanders skillfully and empathetically navigate an unusual coming-of-age romance with poignancy, while Harkins’ unconditional love is laid heart-wrenchingly bare. Andrew Hagen and Derek Boudreaux entertainingly deliver as Oscar’s tormentors (Johnny and Mickey) - both believably cruel, with Boudreaux showing rare glimmers of a conscience. Ryan Hayes, Nick Strauss and Kevin Wheatley are all wonderful as various townsfolk, from shopkeepers to police officers to Oscar’s semi-estranged father. It’s fine character work from them, and the multiple roles are never jarring.
Occasional live camera feeds relayed on stage help to create a televised press conference, or put relationship dynamics under a probing visual microscope. There are particularly moving moments as Oscar bonds with his mother and later Eli in their small apartment. Once again, this blending of technology with a cold, analogue world helps move us seamlessly between locations. Scene changes can be tricky vortices, where the emotional resonance of a play can waver, but it’s maintained here with thoughtful imagination.
I loved the moments of stillness, the minimalist soundtrack and how evocative the whole experience was. Honors are split right down the middle between cast and crew, all of whom should feel very proud of the result. There’s an undeniable backdrop of unspeakable violence and horror, but Let The Right One In is an exploration of love. Love sometimes comes with a price tag that’s more than we can afford, and rationalizing a vast emotional cost can be terrifying in itself.
Let The Right One In plays at Le Petit Theatre through October 22nd. You can buy tickets via this link.
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