AISLE SAY San Francisco


by George Bernard Shaw
Presented by Aurora Theatre Company
Directed by Barbara Oliver
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 843-4822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

"The Devil's Disciple" is something of a departure from other plays by George Bernard Shaw, being staged by Aurora Theatre Company. First, it's his only play set in America and, second, it has melodramatic qualities. It's also much shorter than many Shaw plays, running only about two hours.

The action takes place in Westerbridge, N.H., in 1777, during the American Revolution. The roguish Richard Dudgeon (Gabriel Marin), who calls himself the Devil's Disciple, has returned to town after the death of his father and has inherited his home, much to the consternation of his strait-laced, puritanical mother, Mrs. Dudgeon (Trish Mulholland). The central conflict arises when the town's Calvinist minister, Anthony Anderson (Søren Oliver) goes to a neighboring town where the British have hanged someone to intimidate the townsfolk. He leaves his wife, Judith (Stacy Ross), to serve tea to Richard. British soldiers burst in and mistake Richard for the minister, whom they plan to hang as an example in Westerbridge. Richard does nothing to correct their mistake, apparently willing to go to the gallows to save Anthony. At the British headquarters, he has some exchanges with the war-weary British general, John Burgoyne (Warren David Keith).

Richard has some qualities in common with other Shaw heroes, who don't conform to social norms. As such, he has some amusing, pointed discussions about religion and morality with people like Anthony and Burgoyne. He also keeps a safe distance from Judith despite their mutual attraction. Marin handles the role well, as does Ross, who reveals Judith's conflicting emotions. The other actors also do well except for some unneeded shouting by Michael Ray Wisely as Hawkins an attorney, but he's more subdued as a British sergeant. Likewise, Oliver also gets a bit too loud for the venue when he reveals himself to be a man of action.

Directed by Barbara Oliver, the company's founding artistic director, the production moves briskly with a condensed cast of nine actors, several of whom play two roles. Completing the cast are Tara Tomicevic, Anthony Nemirovsky and Allen McKelvey. The simple set is by John Iacovelli with lighting by Jarrod Fischer, music and sound by Chris Houston and costumes by Anna R. Oliver, daughter of Barbara Oliver and sister of Søren Oliver.

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