Story: Two one-act plays comprise the evening of Oh, Hell! The first, Bobby Gould in Hell, is David Mamet’s updating of his character from Speed-the-Plow, fast-talking, slick-dealing huckster Bobby Gould. Here, Gould finds himself in a waiting room outside the flames of hell, trying to negotiate his sentence of eternal damnation within Satan’s tedious bureaucratic system.
The second work, The Devil and Billy Markham, is a series of vignettes in rhyming couplets by Shel Silverstein in which Billy matches wits with Satan in an effort to save his soul from the clutches of Lucifer.
Highlights: R-S Theatrics offers an irreverent gift for the holiday season with two one-act plays that feature the Prince of Darkness rather than the Holy Family. The result is an amusing evening that provides numerous chuckles in the first half and a display of Silverstein’s profane poetic license in the latter.
Both are well performed under the direction of R-S artistic director Christina Rios for Bobby Gould in Hell and Robert Ashton for The Devil and Billy Markham.
Other Info: In the former, the waiting room in hell seems even lower-rent than what Tim Burton concocted for Beetlejuice. As designed by Kyra Bishop, a trio of doors hung askew at stage right even hearkens to Burton’s off-kilter style, and Bishop adds some dingy office furniture for further effect.
James Slover provides lighting, Mark Kelley adds sound and Elizabeth Henning dresses everyone wryly, from the red socks adorning Lucifer to the button-down attire of his fastidious assistant to the open silk shirt and dangling chains of Gould.
Rios keeps the pace smooth and crisp and her players respond with appealing performances. B. Weller’s Satan is by turns annoyed, bored, irritated, upbeat and incredulous as he finds himself in a debate with Gould, who won’t go quietly into that bad night.
As Gould, Phil Leveling is argumentative and determined. He’s happy to define the word ‘good’ in his own personal context, flummoxing the devil and his very careful assistant, who constantly refers to a guidebook for clarification of various points.
Mark Kelley fills the role of the assistant in tidy and humorous fashion with his precise interpretation of this lost soul. Rounding out the cast in splendid style is Rachel Tibbetts as a woman wronged by Gould who is brought into the conversation by Satan to try to move everything along. After all, he just wants to get back to “killing fish” and leave the drudgery and details to his minion.
GP Hunsaker is the solo player in The Devil and Billy Markham. Bishop’s set is a grungy bar where Billy takes time from serving drinks and mopping the floor to deliver his reminiscences about his encounters with Satan as well as the Lord Almighty himself.
Hunsaker’s delivery is steady and straightforward, embellished with bravado at appropriate moments, but low-key enough to serve as an entry in the series of ads about Irish whiskey (or whatever) saved by its intrepid hero in battles with the Prussian navy or giant birds of prey. Each of the vignettes is more or less like the others, but Hunsaker brings panache to the colorful character.
Oh, Hell! is lightweight material but should keep you smiling and in a festive mood at its conclusion.
Play: Oh, Hell!
Company: R-S Theatrics
Venue: Southampton Presbyterian Church, 4716 Macklind
Dates: December 12, 13, 14, 15
Tickets: $12-$20; contact 456-0071 or www.r-stheatrics.com
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Michael Young