Sunday, August 26, 2007

PLAY: FRINGE, "Hail Satan"

Hail Mac Rogers, Dark Lord of Devilish Dichotomy. His new show, Hail Satan, cleverly plays Satanism against type to make a satirical commentary on religious tolerance and the meaning of personal faith. It's also a damned funny office comedy: talk about "soulless" corporations. For all the bad puns I'm making (this review is filled to the brim-stone with them), Rogers makes the wiser choice of downplaying his fecund material, all to better shock us later.

His instrument for this quiet instruction is Charlie (Sean Williams), the jolly, soft-spoken leader of both a copywriting team and a cult of Satanists. Always smiling, with the passive yet forceful nature of a psychologist, Charlie runs a tight ship that includes the zealous Natalie (Autumn Dornfeld), the super-serious Marcus (Jason Howard), and the affable but noncommittal Kristen (Renee Delio). The play opens on an ordinary Monday with the hiring of the unmotivated but diligent Tom (Matthew Kinney), the perfect tool for a job Charlie's working on. Unfortunately for Tom, whose love of Kristen and curiosity of Satanism get the better of him, that job ends up being the unwilling participant in the conjuration of Satan's daughter, Angie (Laura Perloe).

The second act switches emphasis from the office politics to Angie's growth in the care of Tom, Kristen, and "Uncle" Charlie. For Perloe, this is a great acting opportunity, as she gets to play Angie from two months to eighteen years old, showing remarkable character changes from scene to scene. It's great for Kinney, too, who has to struggle with his unexpected love for a daughter he never wanted, and who has some great moments discovering himself as a father. As for Rogers, it's the perfect opportunity for him to pass on his "values" to the audience through an innocent child. That's a joke, I'm sure, although Rogers writes so well that it's not clear that Mephistopheles isn't peeping out from the inkwell, chuckling to himself at clear, logical arguments from Charlie as to why Angie ought to destroy her enemies: "The pursuit of happiness is a bloodsport."

Mac Rogers must have made a deal with some sort of devil, for he keeps getting blessed with exceptional casts and superb directors. As with the recent Universal Robots, Hail Satan is a well-scripted play that manages to rise above parable and tell a fully fleshed story. And, hey, if some small sacrifice is needed, if some blood is required to grease the wheel, well . . . at least it's going to a good cause.

No comments: