Los Angeles Theater Review: THE DEVIL’S WIFE (Skylight Theatre)

by Dale Reynolds on July 16, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles

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A MARRIAGE MADE IN HELL

Tom Jacobson’s latest play, The Devil’s Wife, is a droll take on old European tales regarding evil demons and feckless wives. Here, the Devil, in the guise of rich landowner Nicholas Mastema (Everette Wallin), invades the home of the three adult Ramirez sisters as they mourn for their newly passed father.

The youngest and brightest, Sofia (Caro Zeller), has inherited her late father’s huge walking stick, which she practices to potentially use as a sort of ninja weapon for enemies in her sights. Her other two sisters, Bonita (Mariel Neto) the eldest and prettiest, and Dulce, the sweetest and horniest (Alana Dietze), find that one-by-one they must wed this attractive and powerful presence. But as is true of old anti-female biases, when told they cannot enter the door to the basement, each sister-turned-wife breaks the rule, causing their deaths.

What we have here is a new version of the hoary old tale, written in contemporary fashion but in Skylight Theatre’s production set in the mid-nineteenth century. The tale is based on the expression “The devil is beating his wife,” a phrase used when it is raining and the sun is shining at the same time (the rain is supposed to represent the tears of the devil’s wife).

As with most of Jacobson’s plays, the dialogue is slick and funny within a supernatural context, but it doesn’t take off like it should: This outing appears to have been undone by Eric Hoff’s lackluster direction, especially in the misuse of his actors. It’s strange to watch clearly talented folk not make the connections to period and emotion demanded by the play (part of the problem could be that the dialogue is set in the present but the design is not). Zeller, grounded and solid as the most sensible of the three sisters, is very contemporary in her feminism while Neto and Dietze, instead of creating full-fledged people, indicated their weaknesses as the characters.

The one who does deliver is Wallin, who does double duty as Beelzebub and his supposed servant: old, hunchbacked Ratel. He seems the most comfortable with the period-truncated style of the piece.

Stephanie Kurley Schwartz’s set is attractive, but Jeff McLaughlin’s lighting design–referred to by the characters–doesn’t hold up as needed. Mike Mahaffey’s fight direction is fierce and Sarah Figoten Wilson successfully mashes modernism into the late Victorian costumes. I can be the devil’s advocate and relate that, overall, it’s a fun evening; but for future productions, the devil’s in the details.

photos by Ed Kreiger

The Devil’s Wife
Skylight Theatre, 1817 ½ N. Vermont Ave
Sat at 8:30; Sun at 3 (except 7/29)
ends on August 20, 2017
for tickets, call 213.761.7061 or visit Skylight

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