by Raphael Badagliacca
I don’t suppose it would surprise you to know that the devil is charming, cunning, a smooth talker, even a sharp dresser. But who knew he was so funny, or that he could dance so well?
Apparently, Lou Diamond Phillips knew. How else could he have written this script or acted it out with such conviction? And since the moving parts – music, narrative, soliloquy, humor, special effects, sensual dancers, philosophical ruminations – come together so slickly to tell our story, I suspect that director Richard Zavaglia also has satanic insights.
BURNING DESIRE is an old story in a new setting. Andrew (read Adam) meets Evan (read Eve) in the fruit section (where else?) of a grocery store and the fun begins – the devil’s fun. Actually, he prefers to be called Lucifer.
Their story is our story which is everyone’s story, because as Lucifer explains there’s a little devil inside all of us. He does his best to bring it out with the help of two shapely, enticing assistants that only he and we can see.
There’s also substance here and relevance. After all, Lucifer’s knowledge is encyclopedic, reaching back beyond that original tree with the low-hanging fruit. He sets the Manichean world view of good and evil to music and laughter for us. He enlists the names of Plato and Hemingway, but also Lady Gaga and the Kardashians to make his telling, humorous points.
In the end, we can’t help but remember that in that old story, he and we share the same fate – a fall from paradise. Maybe that’s why he knows so well how to entertain us.
Tara Franklin as Evan gives us a strongly appealing performance laced with natural, strategic innocence. Ryan Wesley Gilreath as Andrew is simultaneously passionate and convincingly clueless, driven by forces he doesn’t understand, in the usual male fashion. The dancers, Sophie Lee Morris and Jackie Aitkin have to be seen to be believed, and they do make you believe. And finally, Lou Diamond Phillips is the devil himself.
It’s ironic that the world premiere of BURNING DESIRE, the devil’s tale, should take place in the expansive Seven Angels Theater. What it now deserves, as the play moves into its final weekend, is a guardian angel to bring it to the original sin city, also known as the Big Apple, which, of course, makes perfect sense.
Written by Lou Diamond Phillips; produced/directed by Richard Zavaglia.
Set design, Matt Iacozza; lighting design, Matt Guminski; sound design/engineer, Matt Martin; costume designer, Vivianna Lamb; technical director, Daniel Husvar; assistant stage manager, Anna Jackson; artistic director, Semina De Laurentis; choreographer, Mic Thompson; production stage manager, Deidre Cutler; master electrician/carpenter, Stephanie Gordner.