The New York Times says the script for A Devil Inside "is calculated to sound like improvisation by dazed people." The off-off-Broadway website offoffonline.com says the play "is something like Curb Your Enthusiasm meets South Park." The Drama Book Shop's website asks if you like your stories "dark, bloody, furious and, well, funny?"
"It's not your typical Shakespeare-and-musicals fare," understates Theatre 'd Art director Jon Margheim. "It's a little bit edgier. It's a little bit hipper."
Here's the beginning of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire's script:
Mrs. Slater: Son ... your father was murdered. He was stabbed in the back and his feet were lopped off and thrown into a drainage ditch.
Gene: OK. Was that it? ...
Mrs. Slater: Someone took the life of a lovely fat man.
"It reminds me a lot more of what you see in film, the style of humor and the subject matter that you would see in film, as opposed to theater," says Margheim. "And again, that's not to say that this is super-unique in theater, because there's lots of plays that exist that have a similar take to this."
Maybe, but the synopsis doesn't exactly ring familiar: Our main protagonist is Gene, whose mother — Mrs. Slater — wants him to avenge the death of his murdered father. In the meantime, Gene is digging on classmate Caitlin, who's obsessed with their Dostoevsky-loving Russian literature professor, who's likewise tormented with fantasies of killing "the dullest-looking man [he'd] ever seen," an appliance repairman, who himself is a blossoming children's author in his spare time.
Then there's a bit about a character named Lily — who is hiding out with the repairman — who also lost a foot while climbing Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains.
Really, it's hard to keep up with the whole thing, a fact the 29-year-old Margheim couldn't love more.
"I tend to always end up picking shows that have this barely controlled chaos on stage," he says. "There's that immediacy and viscerality of it, where things are always just on that balancing point of spinning out of control, and this play definitely has that in spades."
Though enjoyable to watch, that ever-evolving equilibrium can offer problems for the actors.
"The play walks this fine line between reality and melodrama, and it's really easy to fall off one side, and the play just becomes an overblown soap opera," Margheim says. "And it's really easy to fall off the other side, and you lose all the humor."
So A Devil Inside demands trusted players, says the director, people like longtime local actor Mark Hennessy, who's performing in some of his final scenes before leaving for New York City.
As for the final scenes of the play itself?
"The climax is ridiculous, and one of the other things that drew me to it. The climax of the show happens in two locations at once, with a dream sequence thrown in the middle of it," says Margheim. "A dude gets tumble-dried to death, another guy gets shot, people are hung.
"It's nuts, just absolutely nuts."