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Please allow Marcus Kyd to (re-)introduce himself, he’s a man of (modest) wealth and (sublime) taste. In The Devil in His Own Words, Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s 10th anniversary remount-with-improvements of its very first show (which was previously remounted in 2007), the actor slides back into this role as the Prince of Darkness with the ageless ease of Robert Johnson, one of Satan’s more publicized customers, playing “Love in Vain.”
The bibliography of sources from which Kyd has culled representations of the devil to use in his monologue runs to nearly half a page of very tiny type, and includes all the writers you’d expect (C.S. Lewis, Mikhail Bulgakov, Milton) plus many intriguing deep cuts, too. In one of the 75-minute show’s best interludes, he dramatizes Edward P. Jones’ recent (as in, 21st century) short story “The Devil Swims Across the Anacostia,” about Satan’s encounter with a woman named Laverne in the Alabama Avenue SE Safeway. In another, he grabs a mic and a spotlight to perform a sort of exasperated stand-up routine, the cruelty in his eyes belying his relaxed physicality. “I actually hate heavy metal,” he sighs.
When he isn’t baring his soul to us, he’s securing the souls of others: Director Lise Bruneau cleverly indicates which of the various, unseen other characters Kyd is interacting with by assigning each one a fixed position on the stage. Kyd’s Satan never seems to tire of his partners’ realization that their deal with him won’t turn out like they wanted. One frustrated author—-a redundancy, surely—-signs the contract for a quick visit to a library of the future so he can find out how posterity remembers him. Poor bastard. And Kyd never sounds more reasonable than when bemoaning God’s arbitrariness and instructability.
Kathy Cashel’s sound design makes infrequent, judicious use of electronic processing to give Kyd a menacing, demonic vocal tone. Daniel Flint’s “Scenic Manifestation” of a set credited to Jenn Sheetz and Kathleen Chadwick is minimalist, too—-little more than a ladder and a scrim. Sheetz is also credited with the props: a mannequin, a paper bag, a pair of Barbie dolls, naked and sexless, like Adam and Eve before their exile, maybe. Kyd’s pointed tail is visible only when he appears in silhouette, a clever touch that reminded me of the way Gary Oldman’s shadow in Bram Stoker’s Dracula moved independently—-aggressively—-while Oldman stood still, a gimmick parodied on one of The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” episodes. That bibliography might have to get a little bit longer still.
At Capitol Hill Arts Workship to Oct. 4. $15.