Propelled by strong audience demand and enthusiastic reviews, the stage adaptation of cult vampire tale “Let the Right One In” has extended its New York run by three weeks — and in doing so, takes one step closer to becoming the latest edgy show to use a run at Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse as a launchpad for future life.
In the last decade or so, longtime Brooklyn arts presenter St. Ann’s has carved out a buzzy, downtown niche as a go-to stop for live theater’s equivalent of international arthouse fare, creating a New York spotlight that has jump-started further runs around the U.S. and on Broadway.
St. Ann’s 2007 run of “Black Watch,” the National Theater of Scotland’s look at the Iraq War through the eyes of a Scottish Army regiment, earned the kind of credibility-establishing reviews that not only cemented the reputation of the relatively young NTS but also turned theater-industry heads toward St. Ann’s and the work it programs. “Black Watch” went on to tour the U.S. and played two more runs at St. Ann’s in the process. When a 2009 engagement of “Brief Encounter,” from the U.K.’s Kneehigh Theater, transferred to Broadway, the move confirmed St. Ann’s as a place the theater business should keep an eye on.
Despite a snowstorm, a recent Brooklyn performance of NTS’ “Let the Right One In” played to a full house that included theater executives, agents and creatives, all there to see if the latest show at the venue has legs.
The creatives behind the production, which bowed in the Scottish town of Dundee and subsequently transferred to the West End, were there for the same reason.
“We’re in an interim stage with the show right now,” said Neil Murray, the exec producer of NTS. “This gives us a chance to see whether there’s an appetite for it here.”
For the commercial producer who developed the production, Marla Rubin, St. Ann’s seemed the most viable place in New York to test the waters for the property’s future life, whether that’s a tour around the country to other presenters (such as Arts Emerson or L.A.’s Redcat) or a commercial run on Broadway.
“St. Ann’s is like a rare harbor in that they are so deeply tuned into challenging and cutting-edge material, and they’re also so nurturing in helping you reconvene your show across the pond,” Rubin said.
That nurturing tends to include financing pooled from sources beyond St. Ann’s relatively small $4 million annual operating budget. “We often partner with the company themselves or the foreign government,” said St. Ann’s artistic director Susan Feldman. “We always cobble together a box office guarantee and subsidy.”
Part of what distinguishes the DUMBO company, now housed in a temporary venue prior to the completion of its new facility in the old Tobacco Warehouse, is the big, flexible space that allows for both a certain intimacy — St. Ann’s shows usually seat between 250 and 350, depending on the configuration — as well as a wide-angle scale that, in the case of “Let the Right One In,” allows for a forest of birch trees and ample water and blood.
Feldman sees a common creative thread in the programming’s shared auteur sensibility and strong visual and musical components. (“Let the Right One In” has a score drawn from the work of Olafur Arnalds, whose work is also heard in “The Hunger Games” films and “Broadchurch,” and an evocative birches-in-the-snow set by Broadway veteran Christine Jones.)
“There’s a bit of the outsider in the work we do, and we’re a bit of an outsider, too,” Feldman said.
The story of a bullied kid and his relationship with a youthful vampire (based on a novel and the two cult-favorite films it inspired), “Let the Right One In” is part of a St. Ann’s season that has included a Polish production of Sarah Kane’s “4:48 Psychosis,” Kneehigh Theater’s “Tristan and Yseult,” and, later this spring, a run of two shows by venerable experimental theater troupe the Wooster Group.
The Wooster Group’s stop at St. Ann’s is the latest for shows that have already played Singapore and California, and “Tristan and Yseult” is part of a U.S. tour for the production. Whether “Let the Right One In,” now running through March 8 at St. Ann’s, will follow “Tristan” out onto the road — or embarks across the river to midtown — remains to be seen.