The History of the Devil | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The History of the Devil 

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The History of the Devil, Trap Door Theatre. One of the biggest problems with Clive Barker, as with fellow goth-scene patron Anne Rice, is that he acts like he invented the Byronic hero. This flaw is particularly apparent in The History of the Devil, a play that debuted about five years before his breakthrough film, Hellraiser. Lucifer, up for parole, faces trial for his earthly sins, a drama played out largely in flashbacks to historical misdeeds. Predictably, these scenes tend to humanize and ennoble him, while the courtroom antics confirm his charismatic naughtiness. The result is a speculative epic peppered with postmodern wisecracks, which Trap Door presents with adroit romanticism. But the script's moral inversions are so old hat they might as well be Milton's, and they take nearly three hours to achieve.

Barker's saving graces, like Rice's, are a lush imagination and a sincere enthusiasm for this kind of subversion, something usually restricted to well-read adolescents. Director and set designer Michael S. Pieper makes the most of both, investing the "re-creations" with passion and period flavor. With a couple of exceptions, the talented cast turn in nicely differentiated, committed performances in multiple roles. As the devil, Marc Singletary is suitably seductive, though a touch too iconic. Other standouts include Allison Connelly, Shannon Farmer, and Jennifer Grace.

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