Thursday, August 12, 2010

Princes of Darkness

Bill Connington has appropriated a lot of material for his one-man show, Princes of Darkness, but none of it's appropriate. There's nothing wrong with the dime-store-magic thrown away by Lucifer; no problem with having him break into a rendition of George Gershwin's "I'll Build A Stairway to Paradise"; no shame in having Hamlet, Oedipus, and Dracula put in appearances--even if that requires the use of voice-overs and direct quotes from their source material. Or at least, it would be fine if these parlor vignettes and shreds of characterization went somewhere.

Instead, Princes of Darkness is filled with misguided interruptions-- there's no momentum, no action, and no interest. In fact, Connington spends more time adding eyeliner and swapping cloaks than he does actually inhabiting these famous characters--a surprise, given his performance in last year's Zombie. As Connington-as-Lucifer-speaking-about-Hamlet puts it, in his most eloquent moment (and that's not saying much): "What is this meaningless procession of empty activities that we call our lives? Wake. Eat. Work. Sleep. Then wake--and it starts all over again. what does it mean? Nothing. Nothing at all."

The play succeeds as a call to action, but not the political sort that Connington hints at when he shouts that we would do a better job of ruling this corrupt world than these shallow men and this absent God. Instead, after sitting through pretentious renditions of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" and the wan humor of Lucifer's phone conversations with an ex-girlfriend ("I'm dead... no, literally dead, so how can we have a relationship?"), the audience is eager to produce their own theater. After all, Satan, wouldn't anything be better than your version of theatrical hell?

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