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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: A History of the Devil


The History of the Devil a Trial-ing Experience
by Byron Toben
Clive Barker is a sort of adulte terrible in story weaving circles. A multi-disciplined  myth-maker - plays, novels, films, paintings - he has engendered tons of controversy. Director Jeremy Michael Segal has proven himself as a sort of enfant terrible by assembling 10 young and talented actors (many, like himself, recent grads of  the Dawson theatre program) to portray 31 characters in this cluttered work. Lucas Chartier-Dessert is particularly impressive as the devil himself. The other 9 switch between 30 roles, some fictitious people, some mythological characters, some historical.

“We have met the enemy, and he”

Barker and Segal go Mr. Hamlet  one better by literally holding a reflective mirror on stage to our nature. Is the Devil only a sad reflection of humanity? As Pogo the possum (the only comic strip character to run for president of the USA) famously quipped, “We have met the enemy, and he”
The plot of  this show is that a homesick Lucifer (he of many names) wants to return to Paradise, from whence he was rejected eons ago. A trial is held to determine whether his history warrants a reprieve. Rather than this Devil being in the details, here the details of his record are recited to see if they have been exaggerated.
Dante (the Inferno) is a witness, as is one Jesus of Nazareth. Lady Caroline Lamb (lover of Lord Byron) and one of the Dukes of York (General) are among the historical personages making an appearance. I was surprised to see the 18th century boxer Daniel (Danny the Jew) Mendoza included. He was one of the good guys in the script. That battling scene enlivens the second act, although its comparison of  British bare-fisted, no-round limited brutality as an analogue to the Spanish Inquisition and the French Revolution did seem a bit of a stretch. I was toying with writing a play about this father of scientific boxing, so the pre-publicity is good, I guess.
Stage manager Beata Groves must have been exhausted with all the rapid fire changes and shifts.

The other assorted demons and Greek tragical figures wander and flex their physical theatre stuff in a Dali-esque landscape of white manikins. Stage manager Beata Groves must have been exhausted with all the rapid fire changes and shifts. Logan Williams (who also played Jesus) did the clever costumes and set design.
Conclusion of all this? The show is a must for real theatre enthusiasts, who can pick out subtle Brechtian distancing, Shavian paradoxes and Pinteresque menaces. Others may find the whole too much of a pot pourri of threads and knowledge of obscure references. So. Faust it ain't, Damn Yankees, unh-unh. A much longer and extremely surrealistic trial than Steven Vincent Benet's The Devil and Daniel Webster might be closer to the mark with its trial framework.
Montreal English theatre goers are blessed with several young groups. We hope this one, Theatre 66, survives long enough to mount other shows.

The History of The Devil continues at Theatre Rouge, 4750 Henri-Julien until March 4. Contact www.Title66.Com

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