ASR Theater ~~ Let The Right One In – Adolescence Can Bite

By George Maguire

Take a bullied 12 year old boy, a bizarre female (or not) new neighbor, and tense and bloody serial killings in the town and you have the ingredients for a biting new play from the National Theatre of Scotland being presented at Berkeley Repertory Theater in its American cast premier.

Based on the novel and film by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and stage adapted by Jack Thorne, this new twist on vampire lore and teen coming of age angst is a must-see.

(clockwise from left) Jon Demegillo (Micke), Michael Johnston (Jonny), and Diego Lucano (Oskar) in the West Coast premiere of the National Theatre of Scotland production of “Let the Right One In.”
Photo by Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

12-year-old Oskar (an astonishingly gifted Diego Lucano) is a bullied, sad and lonely child living revenge fantasies among the towering birch trees looming over the town. A jungle gym on the site, which will morph in Act 2 into an astonishing school swimming pool, dominates the right of the imaginative set created by Christine Jones.

Entering with gymnastic flair is Eli, a new neighbor with an older guardian and an interest in connection. They meet, they play, they tease one another and Oskar falls in love. Eli, played with remarkable physical agility and other-worldly acumen by Noah Lamanna, presents a perfect blend of female/male he/she characteristics which both intrigue and excite Oskar.

Eli asks “Would you like me if I turned out not to be a girl?” Oskar freezes and thinks this through responding, ‘Yes…..I guess so.”

Noah Lamanna (Eli) and Richard Topol (Hakan) at work in “Let The Right One In.” Photo by Kevin Berne.

Add another element of suspense and possibility as we watch Diego Lucano’s brilliant work as he listens, thinks a thought through, and reacts. This is a great young actor giving a master class in honest actor reaction.

…John Tiffany directs with minute precision for details…

As we settle into our seats, we watch the small cast trundle through the falling snow and then moments before the play itself begins they exhibit a sense of danger nearby and rush off. Simple set pieces are brought on representing a bed, a candy shop, a locker room or a living room, and then a large trunk which will dominate the play as a home for our vampire heroine.

The seven-member ensemble of supporting actors populates the town as parents, police, shop owners, and of course the three bullies who taunt Oskar constantly with “Here Piggy, Piggy!” shoving him into a locker. We know his revenge will occur.

Julius Thomas III (Halmberg) and Richard Topol (Hakan) at Berkeley Rep. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Director Tiffany and his movement associate Steven Hoggett were the inspiration behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Blackwatch and the Tony award winning musical Once. Their combined sensitivity can work wonders as we watch Hoggett’s balletic movement enrich each scene with atmosphere behind and accenting the very terse script.

Olafur Arnalds and Arnor Dan Arnarson have composed a richly textured symphonic score enhanced by sound designer Gareth Fry and special effects designer Jeremy Chernick’s jolting, boo-creating shocks.

Act 2 turns the Rubik’s cube gym around and we are presented with the school swimming pool, one of the most shocking stage moments I can recall as the bullies bet that Oskar cannot hold his breath for three minutes in a pool clearly deeper than the actor’s height.

(l to r) Jon Demegillo, Nicole Shalhoub, Erik Hellman, and Jack DiFalco in the West Coast premiere of the National Theatre of Scotland production of “Let the Right One In” at Berk Rep. Photo by Kevin Berne/Berkeley Rep.

Vampire lore has been a fascination for centuries. Since Bram Stoker’s Dracula, we have seen True Blood, Anne Rice’s Chronicles of a Vampire, the teen Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers, Becoming Human and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name a few.

Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot is the hallmark of modern vampire books, combining young children with old vampire lore. As these damaged people find one another, we in the audience reflect on our own pasts, seeking revenge for wrong doings on us, anger at parental controls beyond our capability to understand, and of course trying with not much effort to hide our first hickey on the neck.

The blood and the gore of this production may not be to everyone’s taste but its relevance cannot be ignored.


ASR Contributing Writer George Maguire is a San Francisco based actor and director. and a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. He is a Professor Emeritus of Solano College. Contact:


ProductionLet The Right One In
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Directed by John Tiffany
Producing CompanyBerkeley Repertory Theatre
Production DatesMay 20-June 25, 2023
Production Address2025 Addison Street, Berkeley CA 94704
Telephone(510) 847-2949
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?----