The Devil's Familiar | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Devil's Familiar

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THE DEVIL'S FAMILIAR: A com-edy of horrors, Griffin Theatre Company. Given a plot that mixes Christian and classical myths, William Massolia's new fright show is unorthodox even as an entry in the Halloween sweepstakes. But despite supernatural trappings, it spins a tale of redemption through love that's too predictable to require 150 minutes.

In 1942 a skeptical young seminarian reopens Pandora's box and, as if unleashing a genie from the lamp, wins the fanatical devotion of Samael, a fallen angel imprisoned since the days of Judas Iscariot who intends to rule the world. Fifty-five years later the still-young student is starting to regret his partnership with a fiend from hell who tears the heart out of anyone who upsets him. Samael is also seeking another master, but the intervention of a good angel--Prometheus reincarnated as a wimp--destroys his evil empire.

To work, The Devil's Familiar must escalate Samael's horrors, building to a climactic showdown, or derive laughs from the plot's campy excess or create characters so strong that the true special effects are internal. Nothing like that happens; the plot unwinds slowly, its digressions frittering away our interest, until Samael is eliminated all too easily. The one through line that might have unified the play--the student's search for his lost love--is pushed aside. Slow and too steady, Richard Barletta's staging unboldly goes where too many theaters have gone before.

--Lawrence Bommer

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