“A Devil Inside” – Nearly Naked Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ September 2, 2013


Nearly Naked Theatre, The Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Every character, situation, and plot twist is bizarre, wacky, crazy, and hysterically amusing in Nearly Naked Theatre’s season opener, the Arizona premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “A Devil Inside.”  As always, NNT delivers a show we’ve never seen where its approach to everyday life challenges is off-center but clever and under Damon Dering’s accomplished staging, the result is an outstandingly amusing production.

The play opens in a conventional laundromat managed by Mrs. Slater, Gene’s crazy mother.  He’s a university student with his own approach to life.  At school, he meets Caitlin, an opinionated and fixated young lady who shares his class with wacky professor Carl.  Circumstances take them to a weird little fixit shop owned by Brad and with Lily helping out.  It’s Gene’s 21st birthday and his mother informs him that his very fat father was peculiarly murdered and both feet were cut off.  Mrs. Slater insists Gene leave the store so that he can go on a bizarre quest to avenge his father’s death.  His misadventures take Gene on a wacky journey that’s guaranteed to keep audiences laughing as irrational things transpire.

Lindsay-Abaire creates funny dialogue to accompany Gene’s journey.  The playwright throws in every imaginable situation and each creates raucous laughter as the audience becomes part of the excursion.

Since the play is based on the most irrational life choices and the journey is the weirdest imaginable, the cast must be adept at playing silly humor with a straight-laced impropriety to make it truly funny.  Dering’s cast is blessed with the ability to make each stupid situation disarmingly amusing so that the play is an enjoyable romp in absurdity.

Shari Watts has a field day with the bizarre mother, Mrs. Slater, and milks every bit of deranged humor out of the playwright’s dialogue.  As her trusting son, Frankie Marchi is gawky and blindly naïve so every bit of tomfoolery is funny.  As the sedate professor, Carl, Pat Russel plays the character’s attempts at normalcy with honesty so it plays hysterically.  Kaleena Newman plays Caitlin with the same sincerity so every morsel of laughter plays beautifully.  The actors essaying Brad and Lily, Matthew Ryan Harris and Kim Rickels, at the fixit shop set up the other characters humorous situations perfectly.

Dering’s staging makes the most of the ridiculous humor.  Dering has become a master at driving weird plays to their extremes to wring every bit of laughter out of each situation.

“A Devil Inside” delivers a relaxing and humorous performance.  The play continues through September 14.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: B