Say You Love Satan
Also see Richard's review of Hello, Dolly!
Don't be scared-off by the title, though the new show at the ArtLoft Theatre manages to be both hilarious and frightening. Like any good horror story it's also a great morality tale, and (like most HotCity productions) it is raising a tent pole in some unexpected dimension of our souls. Where do they find all these great shows, and why can't anyone else in this town seem to find them too?
The dreamy-eyed, flowing-haired Tyler Vickers is irresistible in the title role as the devilish hunk who likes to take his shirt off in public. In fact, his frequently displayed lats, pecs and biceps should probably get their own separate billing in the program. His left rhomboid was particularly unforgettable in the laundromat scene.
Director Annamaria Pileggi subtly reveals temptation and dread beneath the veil of comedy. And Ben Nordstrom is Andrew, the nice young man who's caught the devil's eye. With just the slightest tilt of his chin, he provokes uproarious laughter, merely by teetering on the threshold of each new diabolical revelation. Fortunately, the script by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa also bubbles over with uncounted jokes, even as it hints at darkness around each new corner.
Sarah Cannon is Bernadette, Andrew's slightly obsessive single heterosexual lady friend (I wish there were a shorter way of saying that). Ms. Cannon is pretty young actress, with a fierce intellect hidden under a delicate, diminutive frame. Here, she dotes on Andrew in a series of increasingly worried phone messages, and looks (initially) like a patch of lawn, hidden too long beneath the garden gnome. But she finally regains her color, and throws her Catholic schoolgirl suspicions into high gear to give the devil his due. Along the way, she and Andrew gain an unlikely ally in a jealous angel (the very fine Shewan Howard).
Mr. Vickers, who was the soulful eye-candy in HotCity's recent Orpheus Descending, gradually unleashes delicious lustfulness and ghastly ambitions here, as the eerie little surprises mount up. And as their relationship traces its twisted path, Andrew seems to feel himself roasting on a spit, just moments after being treated like a very famous movie star. Let's see Neil Simon do that.
Rusty Gunther is quietly complex and noble as Jerrod, the ideal boyfriend, and we watch the dismal wheels turning in his head as Andrew drifts away. To demonstrate Mr. Gunther's credibility, allow me to recall the opening night audience's collective gasp, upon learning what became of the Madonna tickets he'd scored to save their dwindling relationship.
Chris Jensen is terrific in the roles of gushing fan and poisonous ex-boyfriend. And the clever, minimal set with its flashing disco floor keeps the story in high gear throughout. It's another daring and high quality show from HotCity.
Through July 28, 2007. The theater is located in the ArtLoft building, 1529 Washington Avenue, in the old garment district. Visit them on-line at www.hotcitytheatre.org or call (314) 289-4060.
Poster art by Jeff Hirsch