Say You Love Satan
We’ve all met guys like Jack – lean and muscular, he looks like he spends his entire lfie at the gym; but is so culturally versed you wonder how he ever leaves the library; and so financially secure that he’s above the drudgery of the 9-to-5 routine. In short, the Renaissance gay man likely to be profiled in Out Magazine.
But is he too good to be true? That’s the question faced by Andrew, the sweet tempered protagonist of the gay occult romantic comedy “Say You Love Satan” having its Boston premiere with the Zeitgeist Stage Company. He meets Jack in a Laundromat on a Saturday night, and between the wash-and-rinse cycles, is whisked off to Baltimore hottest clubs for a long night of dancing with the promise of some much desired debauchery. Making matters worse for the smitten Andrew is that Jack can also speak intelligently about Dostoyevsky, his literary passion.(Jack says he read “The Brothers Karamazov” in Russian.) Talk about your answered prayers. But you know what they say about answered prayers: soon Andrew begins to question the relationship, and Jack grows horns, literally.
Such is the dynamic of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s clever, if sit-commish play that suggests a “Will and Grace” episode as conceived by Stephen King. No matter how weird things may get, there’s always room for a clever one-liner. Aguirre-Sacasa, an up-and-coming New York playwright who wrote this script five years ago, has more than enough of them. “I finally meet someone I like, who can speak intelligently about Dostoevsky, and he’s a Satanist,” Jack complains to his best friend Bernadette. “I’d be worried that he doesn’t have a job or a last name,” she responds.
Aguirre-Sacasa mixes the kind of comic lines and situations seen such shows as “Sex and the City” with a supernatural plot not unlike “The Devil’s Advocate,” the Al Pacino vehicle of a few years back. The cleverness comes with the way he plays with ‘boyfriend from hell’ concept – especially since Jack really may be from hell. This fact, not surprisingly, alienates Andrew’s friends, who along with the feisty Bernadette include Jerrod, his on-again, off-again near-perfect boyfriend (he’s studying to be a doctor, has a trust fund, and volunteers with AIDS babies;) and Chad, his sleazy ex, an actor whose own special hell will be playing in companies of “Aida” well into his forties. “Don’t worry,” Jack assures Andrew, “there’s a special section of hell reserved for people who work on Disney musicals.”
Much of this is funny, though the play gets a bit too smarmy, and runs out of gas towards the end, largely because of the slack pacing of director David Miller, who takes a connect-the-dots approach to the script. The arena-styled configuration at the Black Box doesn’t help; a little distance may have helped focus the conflicting comedic and occult elements; as would some special effects. You want to be frightened by Jack, not wince at his frightening choice of clothing, especially in the climatic scene when he looks like an extra from a sleazy Madonna video. Costume designer Tracey Campbell appears to have found inspiration for his costumes from one too many nights at the Ramrod.
As the satanic Jack Brian Turner gives the most accomplished performance; lean and a bit mean, there’s something seductive about his bad boy persona; and he has wonderful sense of his character’s ambivalent nature. What, he likes to cuddle? Who would have thought?
John Meigs is convincing enough as Andrew, though you wish there was something more compelling in his relationship with Jack, which never appears to evolve beyond their cute first encounter. Despite how hard they try, there’s so little chemistry between the couple that the central part of the play stops cold, and never quite recovers. Angela Rose is fine as Bernadette, who describes herself as a straight woman trapped inside a gay occult thriller. Alexander Albregts plays Jerrod with guileless conviction, but can’t do much to make his character even remotely interesting. Jeff Zorabedian shows range in a variety of roles. He’s especially funny as an avenging angel who takes a human form, and a club bouncer with a passion for Drew Barrymore. (“Of course, the first ten minutes of “Scream” have never been equaled by anyone—including, I don’t care what they say!, Jennifer Love Hugeboobs!”) The production values are minimal, which is a bit of a problem. Not to be redundant, but you wish for some dry ice or stage magic, or something to suggest the supernatural nature of the story.
Still as a freshman effort by Aguirre-Sacasa, “Say You Love Satan” is a clever enough diversion. He’s got talent, the kind that Hollywood will likely scoop up in the near future. But his work isn’t terribly well-served by the Zeitgeist, whose last effort, the sharply-realized “Popcorn” showed their gift for provocative comedy. This, despite its premise, it never terribly edgy; instead is conventional to the point of distraction, and all but evaporates before your very eyes.
Remaining performances of “Say You Love Satan” are Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 5 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are priced at $20. Through September 11. At the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston. For more information call 617-426-2787.