The Devil Vet | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Devil Vet

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The Devil Vet, Mammals Theatre Company and Rubber Monkey Puppet Company, at the Space. Bob Fisher's latest script owes its most obvious debts to Tod Browning's 1932 Freaks and Herk Harvey's 1962 Carnival of Souls, exquisitely sculpted horror flicks that only loosely conform to the conventions of the genre. The Devil Vet--an affecting parable about a Transylvanian mad scientist haunted by the ghosts of his failures--borrows both films' ominous carnival setting, but more important, it captures the approach of these superior B movies: the biggest atrocities are seen only in the mind's eye.

Fisher's script is a deeply psychological meditation on the loss of identity, and his staging is surefooted and seamless. Three-dimensional shadow-puppet dream sequences--achieved by illuminating cutouts with red and blue lights--are provided by Patrick McCarthy of the Rubber Monkey Puppet Company, adding extra punch to an already visceral staging. Still, the show's campy aspects and Hammer House of Horror histrionics (a talking dog, Germanic accents out the wazoo, and preshow announcements and narration by a Boris Karloff soundalike) might have sent The Devil Vet careening off the track. But thanks to Fisher's committed ensemble and his deep sense of the visual vernacular, the Mammals have stitched together a curious, thoroughly engaging patchwork of high-minded performance tropes and lowbrow archetypes.

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