A Devil Inside
Right Brain Project at Breadline. By David Lindsay-Abaire. Dir. Anthony Ingram. With ensemble cast.
Ingram’s direction of oddities author Lindsay-Abaire recalls John Candy’s radio host in Little Shop of Horrors, telling his listeners how very weeeird his guests look. Similarly, Ingram’s actors point a neon-bright arrow to their characters’ eccentricities. Yet the trick is nailing the normalcy of abnormalcy for Lindsay-Abaire’s characters, at once totally mundane and anything but. As Mrs. Slater—who informs her son Gene that 14 years ago his father was killed and his feet dismembered—a wild-eyed, melodramatic Roxanne Saylor signals only one thing: crazy lady. Most of the other oddballs—the classmate Gene adores, who lusts after their demented Russian-lit prof, who stalks a repairman, and so forth—likewise never hit the right register of both real and unreal. So as events turn increasingly bizarre—from the feet Mrs. Slater keeps in formaldehyde to the bloody soap-opera finale—the incremental insanity lacks the inherent punch.
That’s even clearer by contrast: While the others seem like normal joes putting on their Abby Normals, Joseph Stearns’s truly funny nutty professor pegs the play’s style. He starts out simply off-kilter, but gradually goes completely off his rocker. A cast that better tempers the ridiculous with the reasonable might convey a payoff of Devil’s devolution into hysterics. Notably, though, the design (Melania Lancy’s split laundromat/repair-shop set, Nathan Robbel’s unexpectedly rich sound scheme) is a couple of rungs higher than the standard stuff for $15-ticket shows.—Novid Parsi