No sympathy for the devil
OUT OF THE FLAMES
Written by David Marken
Directed by Natasha Matallana
Opening Night Entertainment (www.outoftheflamestheplay.com)
Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org)
Where Eagles Dare Theatre,
Equity Showcase (through August 5th)
Review by Michael D. Jackson
Presumably, we are to embrace the character of the Devil, known in Out of the Flames as Delcio (Daniel Kennedy), as misunderstood––he just wants to be loved. Not unlike the famous Prince Sirki from Death Takes a Holiday, who takes over a human body to find out what it feels like to be mortal and fall in love, Delcio immediately leaps over courtship to propose marriage to his first love, Jessenia (Devin Dunne Cannon). Her father (Ken Scudder) doesn’t like the boy––he intuitively believes him to be the Devil. Wanting to do right by his future wife, Delcio acquires employment with McKenzie (Alan Altschuler), a cantankerous villain. At McKenzie’s abode are two servants, Martiana (Katie Ritz) and Randolf (Geoffrey Parrish). After Jessenia’s father forbids her to marry Delcio, the young Devil begins to pay attention to Martiana, because, well, she’s available. Poor Randolf, who hasn’t the guts to express his true feelings, suffers as Martiana ignores him for Delcio. Many other things happen in this haphazard plot, which includes the tragic demise of nearly everyone, but frankly, it is all too convoluted to clearly follow. Most importantly, it is too convoluted to find the point of it at all.
Told through numerous blackout scenes in an episodic style, this spectacularly tedious ninety minute exhibition, playing as one part nineteenth century melodrama and one part faux Greek Tragedy, couldn’t pin itself down to a single style. McKenzie, the villain, lumbers around like Boris Karloff and has such dreadful drivel to speak that he might finish the job by laughing maniacally and twisting a mustache. Inconsistency in the writing is blatant as characters speak in Elizabethan English, throwing in “My Lords” here and there, only to turn around and utter modern sayings like “...it’s not in the cards.” None of this is part of a concept. This is not intended to be a comedy or a send-up of a genre. No, this is supposed to be a serious play with characters to care about. The audience is supposed to be sad that the Devil doesn’t get the girl before slipping down into the underworld again. Moreover, the audience is supposed to be illuminated about their own lives somehow. Just exactly what we are supposed to learn was never made clear, but it is evident that no matter how hard he tries to do right, the poor Devil just can’t get ahead and so he must go back to where he came from.
Through all the nonsense, in between a string of undeveloped scenes linked by haunted house sound effects, emerges the sturdy Kennedy as the forlorn Devil, committing one hundred percent and good diction to putting the play over. He can’t begin to make up for the play’s shortcomings, however, even with help from his two ladies, Cannon and Ritz, who deliver their material as if they believed it. Luke Tudball does admirably well as the Devil’s confidant, Basem, though the role is an intrusion for the most part. Parrish is likable as Randolf, and despite his general angst, he emerges as the only character to possess any joy, which has more to do with Parrish’s personality than the writing of his character.
Director Natasha Matallana has her work cut out for her, but her meddling only made the problems inherent in the play pronounced. The possibility did exist for Matallana to find ways of unifying the production, but only the most basic job of getting the play on its feet seems to have taken place. Further, ridiculousness such as the Devil turning away from Jessenia while she is talking to him so that he can pull out a ring to let the audience know that marriage is on his mind, only to secretly slip it back into his pocket to delay the proposal, could have been discarded. Business like this went out one hundred years ago, along with heroines not being able to pay the rent. The entire enterprise was thoughtless, inconsistent and an assault to theatre art. Back to the drawing board!
Copyright 2007 Michael D. Jackson
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