by: Meaghan McInerny
How do you review a show when you don’t want to give away any of the plot? Very carefully, it seems.
“A Devil Inside” is presented by Phoenix’s premier alternative theatre company, Nearly Naked Theatre. The play is by David Lindsay-Abaire who is perhaps best known for his play “The Rabbit Hole” which was later made into a film starring Nicole Kidman. He also worked on the book and lyrics for the musical theatre adaptation of “Shrek: The Musical.”
Now in their 15th season, N2T (as they’re fondly abbreviated) is a resident company at The Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre. If you’re not familiar with N2T, and even if you are, the best synopsis comes direct from the playbill.
Not referring to the participants’ state of dress, Nearly Naked is theater that has been stripped down to its essentials. Free of conformity and political pressure, Nearly Naked presents theater that is honest by its simplicity. Lavish sets and costumes may be used, but are not required. When something is naked, it is exposed and presented without pretense, and that is the nature of our theater. The actors themselves are not naked… unless of course, that’s the nature of the show. We would be naked if we were doing Hair or Oh! Calcutta, but definitely not if we were doing South Pacific or Annie. (Nearly Naked Theatre has no intention of producing any of these plays in the near future; please do not buy your season ticket based on these titles).
N2T is a not-for-profit enterprise, but founder and Artistic Director Damon Derling is adamant that they not fall prey to censorship or the inevitable artistic stifling that too-often comes from aligning with corporate sponsors.
Don’t expect lavish sets and costumes at N2T. They know that the real power of theater isn’t in how much money was spent on the set. Rather, the power lies in every choice an actor or director makes. They’re all about challenging themselves and the audience. They don’t do theater for the spectacle, they do it for what it means.
That level of conviction and purity of spirit is rare, since it is rarely profitable. Being fairly new to the valley, this was only my second N2T show. The first was the musical “Side Show” which was magnificent. (When I say “musical” I mean like all music, all the time…”Evita” style. That show would have been a challenge for a cast of Equity actors without day jobs and N2T hit it out of the park.)
I was so excited to see “A Devil Inside” that I didn’t bother looking to see if I knew any names in the cast or what the show was about. I was flying blind. I didn’t even know until intermission whether the play was divided into acts. (Incidentally, there are two 50-minutes acts separated by an intermission.) And, it turns out, I liked it that way. I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what this show should be. Even if I did, though, I think I would have loved it anyway.
The cast is small: only six actors portraying six characters. They’re all great. I could wax poetic about it, but I’d rather you just find out for yourselves what exactly I mean. This show is funny, campy, macabre, absurd and just plain wonderful.
Cautions: There is a bit of smoking and the theater is small, but it didn’t seem to affect audience members at all. If you’re easily offended, this may not be the show (or theatre company) for you. There’s swearing, violence and an instance of nudity. None of it, however, is gratuitous or blatantly offensive. The show is funny and, while it pushes the envelope, I didn’t see any offended or upset patrons.
If You Go: The Wonderful 100 (N2T’s season ticket holders) have first dibs at the general admission seating. Doors open 30 minutes before showtime for general seating. Though there’s not a bad seat in the house, do get there early if you have a big group and want to sit together. N2T patrons are generally quite friendly and willing to scoot over a seat or two if need be. The theater is delightfully intimate without being cramped and most performances are full if not sold out.
You can bring in drinks from the main bar at Phoenix Theatre or the satellite bar in the Little Theatre lobby. If you’re picking up tickets at will call, remember there are often two shows happening simultaneously in the Phoenix Theatre complex (which also shares parking with the art museum) and plan accordingly. Pro Tip: if you’re dining downtown, drop by the box office and pick up your tickets before dinner.
Lastly, N2T employs dynamic pricing – much like airlines. As seats become scarcer, prices go up. Tickets start at $24 (plus any box office fees) and season subscribers enjoy a locked in ticket rate. Even if you do pay a higher price, rest assured it’s worth it: both for the quality entertainment and for supporting such a fantastic local theatre company.
Follow Meaghan on Twitter @TheIrishWonder