by Kimberly Wadsworth · August 13, 2014
The interesting thing about FringeNYC is seeing so many shows back to back to back – as I did with these two shows, which I saw only one day apart.
Scriptwise they’re profoundly different. The Bloodline of Shadrick Grace is a smaller show – a lively little thing, presented as the interpretive “pageant play” put on by the docents at a minor Arkansas state park. The ensemble means to tell us how Shadrick (Rory Adair), orphaned at the dawn of the 20th Century, became heir to America’s only diamond mine; by play’s end, we’ve also been introduced to moonshiners, nuns, and an Indian woman who seems to have a connection to our hero.
The ensemble has great fun with the show, leaping gleefully in and out of a variety of roles under the direction of Kristin Skye Hoffmann; cast member Ben Fisher seems to have the most fun in a brief stint as a priest, while performer and playwright Maya Contreras switches effortlessly between the Indian woman Halona Wolf, and the “guide” for our “tour.” The cast even does an extended improv as the audience files in, greeting us all like the tour guides they’re meant to be. The script itself meanders a bit, but the cast is having such fun that the time zips by.
And then there is History of the Devil. This is a much more fanciful script, from horror maven Clive Barker; it’s an otherworldly courtroom drama depicting a sort of parole hearing for Satan, to ascertain whether he can return to Heaven or must remain in hell.
It’s possible that this script is simply not suited for Fringe. It’s very long – the performance I was at ran twenty minutes over its purported two-hour length, and it would benefit from a much bigger special effects budget. Here, though, the entire play is presented without any intermission, and some of the “special effects” were handled through the “stare over audience’s heads and describe things” technique.
And sadly, the cast here – also an ensemble – seems a bit challenged by the material. There are some standouts – Victoria Rae Sook makes a fine and sly Devil, Katherine Elliot has fun with three of the “witnesses” in the Devil’s trial and Doug Key comes up with a rather unusual take on Jesus. But there were those who seemed uncertain of their performances – or even, in places, of their lines. I even caught a few cast members visibly reacting each time the in-house air conditioner switched on. Two and a half hours is a long time to be sitting without an intermission; but a tighter show could have kept things from feeling even longer still.