By Michael Buzzelli
At a celebration for the booming success of their business, Voltaire, entrepreneurs George Fast (Sam Turich) and his very-pregnant wife Margarita (Christine Weber) – the great woman behind the great man – realize that time is running out on their venture and, while investors can vote in their favor, nothing is going to change their fate in Jennifer Chang’s “The Devil is a Lie.”
The title is a lie. In Chang’s play, the devil is real. Strike that. The devils are real – she/he/they are legion.
Lucy (lisa Sanaye Dring) prepares for the event by hiring Dogg (LaTrea Rembert) to DJ from a fancy tech booth. Dogg is stage name. He is really Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. (if you know – you know).
Things go south (all the way south) for George and Margarita Fast fast when Lucy reveals her true nature. Chaos ensues. Then, more chaos.
The opulent investor meeting swiftly becomes a nightmarish hellscape.
Before the play begins, investors…i.e. audience members are greeted by a Voltaire employee (House Manager/ Actor, Marsha Mayak) who reminds everyone to scan the QR code to vote in the upcoming proceedings. She is a welcoming and comfortable presence in a show that gets uncomfortable – especially for George and Margarita Fast – quickly.
Scan that code because there’s a sort of “Choose Your Own Adventure” feature where you get to vote for the character’s fate.
Side note: The play didn’t really need the gimmick, and there was some debate after the show as to whether the voting actually affected the character’s fates, but it was fun to play along.
George Fast is a being of pure pleasure and no self-control, and as every student of Marlowe knows, “He that loves pleasure must for pleasure fall.” Fast is a hedonist, narcissist and smarmy billionaire rolled into one finely-tailored suit, but he falls fast and furiously. Turich plays him with sensual aplomb, a capitalist pig of the oinkiest degree.
Weber is terrific as the long-suffering wife – who suffers more than she should for her man (and unborn child). There’s a strange section of the play were Weber returns twice – once as Helena (a character the show didn’t really need) and another as a more-surprising twist. Weber gets a chance to spotlight different aspects of her talent in each of the three different roles, and she does it superbly.
But this is Dogg and Lucy show (both of whom are named after Peanuts characters). Dring is excellent as the malalovent manipulator of the events. She struts around on the stage with gravitas and devilish charm. Her character is one of contradictions. Dring not only pulls it off, she shines.
Rembert is another charmer. He gets some of the show’s best laughs. He makes said laughter look effortless, but anyone would tell you that garnering those belly laughs is a difficult job.
Scenic designer Sasha Schwartz reimagines the space – the Tenant Innovation Center of the Frick Building – into an sumptuous playground for the rich investors – replete with neon piping and Voltaire logos hidden around like Easter eggs.
Kudos to the sound designer Howard Patterson who produced noises that sounded like they were ripped straight from the gates of hell.
There’s also some great costume design work from Grzegorz Labuda. Weber’s fake pregnancy looked very real (the distended belly had a button).
Chang has some interesting things to say, but a very many things. The show is, mostly, about fate and free will, but she tackles a plethora of topics – maybe too many. Things get a little confusing.
The Quantum production, with tremendous acting, a beautiful set and pitch-perfect sound and lighting design, is flawless. But is it good? That’s for the audience to decide.
“The Devil is a Lie” runs from April 7 to April 30 at the Tenant Innovation Center, Frick Building, 437 Grant Street, Downtown Pittsburgh. For more information, click here.