Prince of Starkness: Satan prefers to work alone, thanks.

The devil in this postmodern textual collage is definitely in the details: Marcus Kyd’s list of sources for this 90-minute monologue could make an English major feel functionally illiterate. Still, from the moment a single spotlight illuminates the smartly dressed performer splayed out on the stage, Kyd’s exercise in close reading uncovers all sorts of natural through-lines among genres as disparate as poetry, prose, and religious texts. Some of Kyd’s purloined sources are natural partners: Selections from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown and Washington Irving’s The Devil and Tom Walker are married in form and general sensibility. Sometimes Kyd’s literary role models do the heavy lifting for him, as with Mark Twain’s unfinished The Mysterious Stranger, which finds the devil embarking on a trip around the world to collect unpaid debts. And some of the found texts are so perfect, they beg to be excerpted in full, like Old Scratch’s initial meeting with Daniel Webster: “’Tis true the North claims me for a Southerner, and the South for a Northerner, but I am neither.” Of course, even Satan himself might view the purple-hued Victorian dandy suit and Masterpiece Theatre cue music as a bit much. Director Lise Bruneau’s staging ratchets up the drama with a series of arresting tableaux: Kyd gyrates seductively behind a curtain, towers over Adam and Eve (in the form of naked plastic dolls), and pulls in a tailor’s mannequin and a series of disembodied heads when interacting with his own victims. His beguiling and inarguably charismatic performance aims to muster sympathy for his subject as a victim of misunderstanding and circumstance. Unfortunately, his devil is also a bit of a blowhard. Too much of The Devil in His Own Words is devoted to replaying his greatest secular and sacred hits. The script fares better when Kyd adds context with his own liberal interpretations of original sin or punches a hole through the fourth wall with a stand-up routine that allows Satan to scoff at his own sad showing in popular media: “There are too many movies about me, and most of them are crap!” No arguments here—Satan has obviously mastered the fine art of seduction; it’s his sales pitch that needs refinement.

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