Much like the stark contrasts found in traditional concepts of heaven and hell, Mark Terry's Interview with a Demon paints an imaginative story against an unfortunate backdrop of predictability.
The production directed by horror-comedy specialist Michael Khashmanian seeks to answer some of the biggest questions asked by mankind about mortality. The play works to examine various historical absolutes, such as the nature of heaven and hell, angels and devils and transcendent love.
Bradley Gibb, played by Ryan Graham, is a confident and handsome TV personality whose world is flipped upside-down when he discovers that his wife has been unexpectedly possessed by a demon. Gibb seizes the opportunity to boost ratings and to gain publicity and sets out to learn about the demon.
The fame-hungry host sparks dialogue on demonic possession and conventional views surrounding good and evil. As the play progresses, so does the social commentary on mortality. This unique plotline serves as one of the play’s strong suits.
Alex Clay, who plays both the demon and the cameraman, gives an excellent delivery, challenging Gibb to abandon pagan beliefs. He also provides some quirky explanations to demons roaming earth. The dialogue is naturalized through explanations like the exact weight of a soul and the descriptive earthly taste of possessing another human. Clay arguably steals the show with his ability to switch back and forth as the demon, and really hones Tom Wait’s raspy demon voice.
The audience learns that, after a person dies, they have a self-imposed destination and will freely choose where they are situated on an afterlife continuum with heaven and hell on opposing sides. Throughout the creative explanations, however, there are still some shortcomings. With little stage movement and minimal musical cues, there are times where watching the interview feels like watching an awkward first date. It has potential, but lacks professionalism and still requires some polishing.
The production also tends to rely too heavily on conventional tropes, like the overtly Catholic priest and his cross, and comedic stereotypes like women who like to talk too much and own too many cats. These tired attempts at humor take away from the production as a whole, and as a result, the lines come across as incredibly scripted.
While the play’s concept is refreshingly original, the production spends too much time on irrelevant subplots. Scenes such as the demon’s confession that Tom’s wife is sleeping with soundman Steve subdues the play’s uniqueness and adds to the already dense dialogue. While Interview with a Demon is creative, the predictability leaves the performance lacking.
B.SMART Productions and Beech Street Theatre Company’s INTERVIEW WITH A DEMON is playing at Alumnae Theatre, located at 70 Berkeley St., until Nov. 15.