Tuesday, September 6, 2011

There is a Good Play in Here Somewhere

Tony Georges’ Tricks the Devil Taught Me has been beaten up pretty badly by theater critics. And the beating is not completely unjust. Asking an audience to trudge through almost three hours of meandering dialogue is a lot to ask. And at the summer afternoon matinee I saw in a steamy Minetta Lane Theatre, I could sense as much from the audience. And on top of that it seems that Tony Georges, the writer and director of this piece, allegedly owes a few disgruntled people money.

While I can't comment on Tony Georges' financial woes, I can make a few comments on Tricks the Devil Taught Me and will even go out on a limb by saying that I think that this play about a unhappily married couple in West Texas has some potential.

First, the play is well acted; Beth Grant's credible performance is amazing. Also, I got a kick out of the quirky set which includes a tree and a mountain lion protruding from the walls of the Minette Lane Theatre. However, for a good portion of the play, an abrasive Betty (played by Ms. Grant) spews nasty and condescending venom at her husband of 20+ years Don (played by Peter Bradbury) and son (played by TJ Linnard). The audience is beaten over the head with this abusive language as we slowly learn (amongst other things) how Betty became so abrasive and why Don seems to be plotting his exit from the terrible marriage.

During the play, Lorraine (Betty’s friend played well by Jodie Lynne McClintock) laments that she was born in a world full of possibilities and could have been anyone yet ends up living a pathetic life – homeless and obese. Just like Don and Betty’s marriage, we see that you get to this point by years and years of not doing anything about your circumstances and living in denial.  

Had Tricks the Devil Taught Me, which closed after less than one month on stage and 10 days after officially opening, focused on this theme (i.e., life and how it can slowly become bitter and toxic when there are inaction and little effort) with a shorter, tighter plot, I think that it would have the makings of a good play.

However we may never find out.

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