Review by Matthew Wilson
A minor line in Mark Terry’s new play Interview with a Demon; but one that most people will be saying when they leave Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre—Bradley: “Huh! I didn’t see that coming.” This is a play unlike any other. It’s a comedy, a drama, a romance and at many times, a lecture. Terry breaks a lot of theatre conventions, but because it works so well, he’s actually creating new ones. For example, the light-hearted, sometimes slapstick funny, first act draws the audience into the premise that a body-jumping demon wants to do a TV interview…
– but once sucked in, the longer second act delivers the intellectual goods that a typical audience might not otherwise be prepared for.
The cast is nothing short of phenomenal. Ryan Graham gives a nuanced performance that begins with a subtle peak at Bradley’s talk-show host’s opportunistic persona, but as his interaction with the Demon progresses, so too does Bradley’s emergence into a more maniacal role. When he learns he can use the Demon’s possession to gain immense knowledge, Bradley’s ego runs rampant. Graham’s performance matches this character transformation with ever-increasing intensity.
Father Flanagan, the play’s exorcist (what, you really thought a play about demons wouldn’t have an exorcist?) is a bumbling, yet loveable clod trying his darndest to send the Demon back to Hell through Latin prayers and Holy Water – none of which work, despite the Demon’s hilarious attempts to help him. Played with admirable sincerity by John Fitzgerald, you never know what’s going to happen when he shows up.
The toughest roles of this show belong to the two actors tasked with playing the Demon in addition to their alter egos, Boodle and Pat. Boodle (Vicktoria Adam) is the wife of Bradley and the director of his TV talk show, but she is also the Demon (and even a third character I can’t reveal here) for a large part of her time on stage. She is absolutely breathtaking – equally terrifying, sympathetic, loving and pitiful. A tough role for any actor, but Ms Adam rises to the challenge and shines. But the real star of this show is the Demon and Alex Clay who plays this role most of the second act. Like Adam, Clay is also playing more than one role and the contrast is intriguing:
Pat Lor, a TV cameraman is a little dim, played with wide-eyed innocence by Clay. But when the Demon takes over, Clay transforms into a wise-cracking trouble-maker who happens to have all the answers to man’s oldest questions. Clay’s mastery of the script’s words is admirable, but it is the physicality of his performance that underscores this intriguing text. When he was on stage I could not take my eyes off him.
By now one might ask where Sean Cullen fits in to all this. He’s not on stage in body- but in voice. He plays the never-seen producer of the talk show “Tom”, obviously the God character in all this who is frequently not as omnipresent as he should be. Director Michael Khashmanian says that this play may very well change your entire belief system and that’s not an exaggeration. Terry’s clever use of metaphor and logic to offer explanations of crossing over, guardian angels, racism, love and death present concepts that, while clearly pure fiction, are difficult to refute.
Unfortunately, this play has a very short run – a limited engagement that ends Sunday, November 15th, at the Toronto Alumnae venue. If you want to laugh, think and feel all warm and fuzzy all in one play, I highly recommend you make a point of seeing this new kind of theatre. It’s one helluva a show!