Out of the Flames
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
July 15, 2007
"The Devil made me do it" has long been an excuse for our own choices. But what if all this time the Devil had been wrongly accused of all the evil in the world? What if he just wants to be forgiven, accepted, and even loved? This is the premise of David Marken's Out of the Flames, a play that tries very hard to burn very brightly but unfortunately has little fuel to make a flame.
The Devil's name is Delcio and he's in love with a girl named Jessenia but her overbearing father won't allow them to marry, so he sends her to some far-off undisclosed land. Delcio is heartbroken though not for long. He soon finds a new love interest in a servant girl named Martiana who works for an arrogant castle owner named McKenzie to whom Delcio shows undeserved compassion. He is eventually pursued by townspeople armed with pointy sticks and only his buddy, Basem, attempts to help him escape.
Marken makes his premise clear enough in his advertising but he fails to follow through in the action of the play. I thought I was going to see a play about the true nature of evil but this play sheds no light on that. The Devil doesn't have any of the problems one would think the he'd have. He's mostly concerned with getting the girl and that's fine, but it has nothing to do with what the play professes to be about. Sure, I understood Marken's theme but that's mostly because he spoon-feeds it in a "here's what you're supposed to learn" speech at the end. His writing is packed with dime novel clichés and heavy-handed exposition.
To make matters worse, director Natasha Matallana brings little vision, structure or production value to this show. There are way too many blackouts accompanied by clunky and mostly pointless set changes. Stylistically, her actors are not on the same page; however, to her credit she does keep them moving along at a good pace. The acting is really the saving grace of this production.
Daniel Kennedy is adequately passionate as Delcio, and his two leading ladies, Devin Dunne Cannon and Katie Ritz, are equally talented. I also liked Geoffrey Parrish in his small but funny role. But it is Luke Tudball that rises above all as Basem. Tudball creates a hilarious character, making me wish he was in a leading role because the other lead actor, Alan Altschuler as McKenzie, speaks his lines as if he were reading them off the inside of his eyelids. Ken Scudder as the Father plays a good angry man but that's pretty much all he does.
The fuel for any play is its text, but unfortunately this Out of the Flames has nothing to burn.