Dally with the Devil
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
September 10, 2011
Dally With the Devil by Victor L. Cahn is about 3 politically powerful women—one on the left, one on the right, and a blogger (think Arianna Huffington) in the middle. Irene is a lefty college professor who believes her man has what it takes to be the President of the United States. Megan, an ex-Marine and war vet, believes her faith-based candidate has the stuff to take the job. The blogger Charlotte claims to want the truth—veracity confirmed by the facts. She meets with both Irene and Megan separately, then tricks a chance encounter where all three of them can slug it out. Charlotte owns a beach house with an unpaved entrance, so the sand forces all three women to be barefoot. More on this later. When she meets with them individually each woman seems content that her man is beyond reproach and is a viable candidate. But, politicians being who they are, each man actually has dirt on him. When the three women get together the real truth begins to merge.
Dally is the operative word in the title. The play is more a dalliance with political intrigue and hot button topics than a piece of theater that digs in deeply to the root causes of our ineffectual political system. Which I think is the play’s point. The characters are more about attitude than multi-dimensional women who passionately believe in their arguments. The incriminating details on their respective candidates—adultery, bogus military service, and /or a part time lesbian wife—seem tame in light of the egregious behavior we readily accept from our own elected officials.
What I found most frustrating about Dally With the Devil is that the play is innocuous. The subject matter is ripe for exploration and social comment, but Cahn seems to take a rather tepid stand. Left good. Right bad. Blogger seeks the truth. It isn’t until the last scene when the left and the right have to join forces to put the blogger into a catch-22, that the play gets a little bite to it. We end where we begin. The lack of tension and dramatic arc, left the audience unsure what to do when the lights faded.
As Irene, the wise and snarky professor Elizabeth Norment is believable. There’s an intelligence in her eyes and maturity to her voice.
As Megan, Elizabeth A. Davis lacks the edge that a combat-hardened Marine would have. Davis seems uncomfortable on the set, often pinning herself against the walls and furniture for support. I believed her the most when she was trying to convince herself that the right-wing, homophobic man she wants so desperately to believe in contradicts the lifestyle she leads.
Erika Rolfsrud as the cynical and bitter blog queen has an appealing ease on stage. But, as the bard said, she used her bare feet to “saw the air thus.” The continuous bending, stretching, and wiggling of her toes was very distracting.
Eric Parness directs and does a good job keeping the action flowing, but he's allowed his actors to wonder without purpose at times, trapping themselves in awkward places on the stage. At one point I actually thought one of the actors was going to take a header.
The beach front house and deck are designed by Jisun Kim. The set is authentic, and detailed beautifully. From the wobbly beach fence, to the clumps of sea grass in the sand, it creates the reality and location for the day with class and a flawless execution.
Rachel Reiner Productions gives Dally with the Devil a first rate production. I credit Cahn for his political and social intentions in the script. It’s necessary material to comment on and the theatre is the perfect venue for those statements. It’s then incumbent upon the play to live up to the production it was given. Unfortunately Dally with the Devil fails to realize its potential.