A Devil Inside | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

A Devil Inside 

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A Devil Inside, HyperWorld Theatre, at Link's Hall. It's not hard to see why the HyperWorld Theatre folks were attracted to David Lindsay-Abaire's twisted comedy about an ineffectual young man reluctantly searching for his father's killer: it's filled with delightful surrealistic touches, such as a mother who's secretly kept her dead husband's feet pickled in a jar of formaldehyde. Lindsay-Abaire has a knack for creating characters who evoke time-honored comic types--the meddlesome Jewish mother, the pompous professor, the cruel coquette--yet come across as original and unpredictable. Then he ensnares them in a farcical plot full of outlandish coincidences.

Off the page, though, A Devil Inside demands a much more sophisticated staging than director Chris Thornton can muster. His cast of six usually don't have a clue how to mine the script's laughs. They overact when they should be subtle, act silly when the material demands a touch of naturalism, and almost never succeed at communicating the subtext's sexual hysteria. Heath Corson comes close to the mark as a professor of Russian literature whose love of Dostoyevsky has pushed him over the edge, but even he falls short.

The problem runs deeper than casting, however. This leaden, awkward production emphasizes all of Lindsay-Abaire's flat-footed sitcom touches--notably his glib one-liners--while ignoring the script's many opportunities for creating some really strange but original and entertaining theater.

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