The Doctor and the Devils
nytheatre.com review by Ivanna Cullinan
August 15, 2009
Rag 'N Bone Theatre Company is a dynamic and talented ensemble of young artists delivering a solid theatrical event in their production of The Doctor and the Devils by Dylan Thomas.
Director Daniel Balkin has effectively adapted this piece, which was originally intended as a screenplay, to the stage. His transition highlights the lyrical strengths of Thomas, uses limited and effective choral moments, yet remains strongly plot-driven with robust characters. A fine cast plays this text with largely excellent voices and strong physicality, running through a myriad of characters with six actors. The minimal set, clear lighting (Scott Needham) and fine costumes (Luke Brown) serve the piece very well and so while the production is dark on many levels, it remains clear and compelling even at its slightly repetitive end.
The Doctor and the Devils exists within a harsh and unforgiving collision of scientific progress and social decay. It is the age of the anatomists, like the brilliant Dr. Rock (David Jenkins) and Mr. Murray (Nathan Todd) of this piece, who are endeavoring to rediscover and expand upon knowledge of the body, its organs and systems. These men of science believe knowledge to be what will save humanity. Simultaneously, urban life is developing cities of such concentration that social bonds and economic possibilities are shifting faster than the abilities of people like Jenny Bailey can cope with. With few options and in a world where 25 is a ripe old age, Jenny (Madeline Blue) is determined to live while she can and do what it takes to have whatever limited fun she can partake in. Jenny's humanity is being stripped from her daily and "knowledge" isn't interested in doing a thing about that. But the lives overlap and as concerns contradict, the stakes are more personal as aspiring-to-be-eminent professionals like Murray frequent the pubs and even Dr. Rock knows some of the poverty-stricken in the neighborhood.
As the anatomists are strictly and grudgingly limited by law to dissect the John and Jane Does of the time, their supply of cadavers upon which to work is limited. Enter Broom (Kristy Powers) and Fallon (Abel Gonzalez), whose entrepreneurial spirit—and considerable thirst for whiskey—prompts them to answer the doctors' need and supplement their own income with occasional assistance from their drudge, Nelly (Katherine Stults). Think a production in which a condensed Nicholas Nickleby meets Sweeney Todd with abundant of energy and earthiness. Perhaps what the production captures most interestingly is how alliances shift when the proverbial human excrement hits the fan.
The Doctor and the Devils is a solid production of interest that will only grow with its run and if this show is typical of what Rag 'N Bone has to offer, then they are a company to watch.