Volume 96, Issue 6
Friday September 6, 2002

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As we judge the Devil, we judge our own demons

The History of the Devil
Starring: Jordan Morris, Jeff Werkmeister, Caitlin Murphy, Jackie Cushing
Directed by: Dawn Penner

Parham Rasovlinijad/Gazette

I'D SELL MY SOUL FOR A FORMULA ONE RACE CAR. A play about the devil is every bit as much a sure winner as a quote from The Simpsons.

By Chris Lackner
Gazette Staff


Should we shed a tear for the Prince of Darkness?

This is the essential question asked in Clive Barker's The History of the Devil, a production which delves into the very heart and soul – or lack thereof – of the archangel Lucifer himself.

Barker, a veteran in the genre of fantasy and horror, is best known for novels such as Weaveworld and Imajica. True to Barker form, the premise of the play is a fine blend of the majestic, the implausible and the extraordinary. The Devil (Morris), exiled from heaven for millenniums, is up for parole and a trial ensues to determine his eligibility for a return to paradise. The evidence? Whether his time in exile has been spent causing more good or evil towards humanity.

The trial of the century (with apologies to O.J.) takes place in Kenya, Africa, on the shore of a murky river said to be 60 miles north of where Eden once stood. A mediocre appeal trial lawyer named Sam Kyle (Werkmeister) is pressured into defending Lucifer and the prosecution is led by lawyers Catherine Lamb (Murphy) and Jane Beck (Cushing).

What ensues is a mind-boggling trial which depicts Lucifer's deeds and misdeeds (depending on your perspective) throughout the centuries.

Called to testify in court are dead souls who encountered Lucifer during the course of their mortal lives. They include a Roman named Callimachus who is tricked into opening his city's gates to murderous barbarian hordes.

Another tale is spun by a mortal woman who Satan seemingly loved, but eventually conned.

We hear evidence at the trial from Satan's wife Lillith, from Dante (yes, that Dante) and are witness to a controversial scene in which Lucifer meets Christ himself and at Christ's request, helps arrange the son of God's crucifixion.

One of the most appealing aspects of this complex production is the way the script, reinforced by strong performances from the cast, creates the illusion that the play's audience is actually sitting in as Satan's jury.

Morris is delightful as the Devil – instilling Lucifer with an arrogant calm, intermixed with bouts of seething emotion. He is buffeted by strong performances from many of the supporting cast, with special mention going to Mike Van Holst as the demonic narrator.

The lone weakness of the production is its length. Due to its very nature, the production is rich in dialogue and layered with references to theology, philosophy, history and literature. That being a positive thing, there are also a number of scenes which seem to drag on for an eternity.

It's tough for the audience to like Lucifer, but it is easy to see something familiar in him – the same capacity for arrogance, loneliness, destruction and heartbreak that act as both a gift and a burden upon humanity.

The History of the Devil continues to play at McManus Studio at the Grand Theatre until Saturday, Sept.14. All shows begin at 8:00 p.m. Call 672-8800 for ticket information.

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2002 THE GAZETTE