About Face Theatre

November 2005

A Diabolical Gay Romantic Comedy

by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Dir
ected by Scott Ferguson

Elizabeth Ledo, Scott Duff, Jonathan Pereira and Joshua Rollins, photo by Michael Brosilow

Jonathan Pereira and Joshua Rollins, photo by Michael Brosilow

CRITICS ARE FALLING UNDER SATAN'S SPELL
Read the reviews and check out the reviews below!



"A little light urban romance, starring the Antichrist"

- Chicago Sun-Times

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's romantic horror comedy "Say You Love Satan" is the theatrical equivalent of a venial sin. Though the premise is a bit unbelievable and not too deep, you'll still enjoy it (but possibly hate yourself later).

Much to the chagrin of his high-strung and bitterly single gal pal Bernadette (played to comic perfection by Elizabeth Ledo), nerdy Andrew (Joshua Rollins) opts to spend his Friday night at the laundromat curled up with a book by Fyodor Dostoevsky and thereby avoiding either of the two men in his life: his cheating ex-boyfriend Chad (the hilarious Scott Duff who is never without a gin and tonic or a bitchy retort) or Jerrod (Benjamin Sprunger), the guy he is currently seeing but won't commit to because he is too nice (Jerrod volunteers to cuddle crack baby orphans and thinks nothing of returning Andrew's late DVDs and paying the late fees for him: Oh, the horror!)

Jack (Jonathan Pereira) shows up to pull Andrew out of his shell. When he fails to get Andrew's attention after stripping off his shirt and throwing it in a washing machine, he has Andrew swooning after telling him he's read Dostoevsky in Russian. Even though Andrew sees Jack's "666" birthmark and is convinced he is the Antichrist, the two are soon inseparable.

At the heart of the show is a discussion of the nature of evil. As Andrew, Rollins is like a gay version of Woody Allen. He is neurotic and seemingly capable of discussing the complex inner workings of Russian novels as well as talking himself out of the most stable and healthy relationship.

And he sometimes does some very nasty things. He thinks nothing of dumping Jerrod with a standard break-up line that caused a few groans in the audience last Saturday night (we've all said it or had it said to us before) or blowing off Bernadette ("You get into a relationship and suddenly you don't see your friends, it happens," he says, dismissing his actions).

By contrast, Jack is positively saintly. He is charmingly seductive. It's easy to see how one might risk eternal damnation for the chance at a roll in the hay or a second date with him. If that weren't enough, he's a nice guy who is not above using his powers to get you into the hottest clubs or to cool your beer with his icy breath. Sure, he's carrying on his shoulders the burden of bringing about the Apocalypse, but who hasn't been screwed up by their upbringing? The most evil thing about him? He likes to -- God forbid -- cuddle. Pereira plays him with just enough vulnerability to leave you wondering whose heart will really be broken or whose soul crushed in this affair.

Director Scott Ferguson (creator of "Schoolhouse Rock Live") keeps things going at a breezy pace, but the 90-minute show could probably be performed without an intermission. The stakes at the end of Act One aren't high enough to really warrant one. The second act also takes on an uncharacteristically dark tone before coming to a schmaltzy ending. You're already captivated by the characters at that point, though.

Give the devil his due and see this show. You can repent by seeing something of more theatrical substance later.

-Misha Davenport

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"SAY YOU LOVE SATAN," Chicago Free Press

Auteur Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (known for his homoerotic comic books, including “Fantastic Four,” “Spiderman” and “Nightcrawler”) delivers a 90-minute take on selling your soul for sex.

Smart but shy, 25-year-old Baltimore teacher Andrew meets his opposite, gorgeous and athletic Jack, in a laundromat. Soon they find common ground in their love of Dostoevsky and, more strangely, in a birthmark on Andrew’s belly. (It grows when he’s with Jack.) On their first date glamorous Jack gets them entree into nine exclusive discos (in Baltimore?). Eventually the hunk-defining man-god tells Andrew he’s really Abrador, the son of the devil. (Or is this “little prince of darkness” really Lucifer himself?) Suddenly these strange circumstances make sense and “Satan, get thee behind me,” takes on a whole new meaning.

Defying his fag hag confidante Bernadette and his altruistic, would-be boyfriend Jerrod, Andrew seems ready to sacrifice everything to pursue this “Plutonic relationship.” It’s regrettable because Bernadette, herself into demonology, offers advice from her ex-boyfriend, a Druid priest. Complicating things, Jerrod, a selfless medical student and future saint, tends a sick child. The baby attracts Jack’s interest as a possible human sacrifice.

The sitcom-sassy first act diverts with its glib celebrity jokes and gay banter (imagine “‘Jeffrey’ Meets ‘South Park’”). In synch with the silliness, About Face’s local premiere makes the merriment matter. Not surprisingly: Director Andrew Ferguson, who staged “Xena Live!,” has a flair for pop-culture make-believe. But the laughs dry up in the increasingly sinister second act. (It only takes one gratuitous death to wreck a comedy.) For a comic book writer the final showdown with Satan is curiously anti-climactic, almost procedural, and pointlessly involves celestial intervention by Raphael, a snotty seraphim. By the end Andrew has lived out Dostoevsky’s discovery that evil sets off good as death enlarges life.

Ferguson’s ripe and ready cast give this mixed blessing a ton of head and heart. Joshua Rollin’s endearing every(gay)man Andrew is charmingly vulnerable. Elizabeth Ledo’s plucky Bernadette is very much a friend in deed and Benjamin Sprunger’s ultra-decent, sweet-faced Jerrod is every deserving boyfriend times ten. Scott Duff has contagious fun playing Andrew’s nasty ex, an arrogant angel, and a celebrity-crazed bouncer.

Playing the ultimate villain, an unimprovably handsome Jonathan Pereira has muscled up to play diabolical Jack. (He gives a new meaning to “The Devil made me do it.”) Devastatingly suave in his best Pierce Brosnan style, Pereira incarnates the unofficial 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not tempt.” Something tells me audiences won’t hold that against him.

-Larry Bommer

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"SAY YOU LOVE SATAN," Windy City Times

Say you’re a graduate student in Russian literature. Say you have an OK face and bod ( about which you’re self-conscious ) , but you’re not a party boy. Say you have a sweetheart of a med student pal who wants to love you forever. Say that one night in the laundromat, a handsome, hard-bodied hunk only has eyes for you. Say his eyes, and all his stunning anatomy, stay glued to you alone through two months of the best dirty sex you’ve ever had. Say he tells you he’s the Devil’s spawn, and you find yourself turning evil in his company. Say you love Satan. “Evil incarnate has a six-pack, shoulders this wide and zero percent body fat. I’ve had worse boyfriends,” our hero, Andrew, tells us.

Putting itself back in the mode of Xena Live! and Pulp ( which will be remounted later this season ) , About Face Theatre offers Say You Love Satan, a fast-paced comedy by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, rapidly rising playwright and author of the Spider Man and Fantastic Four comics. It’s a thin but engaging work in the manner of the old gay sitcom Brothers, but minus the relentless machine gun of one-line laughs. Rather, Say You Love Satan borrows from the early Durang-Inaurato satire, The Idiots Karamazov, using Fyodor Dostoevsky’s dialogue between good and evil as a framing device. Not a lotta laughs in Dostoevsky.

But not to worry: This 90-minute show ( with intermission ) is a sprint from start to finish, especially as guided by superior track coach Scott Ferguson, who firmly believes the race is to the quick. He’s assembled deft artists about him, none more so than Scott Duff, who turns a series of cameo supporting roles into comic scene stealers. But it’s tall, dark-haired Jonathan Pereira as Old Scratch—given the mortal name Jack and the satanic name of Abaddon—who’ll send tingles through your private parts, as the Church Lady might say, balancing sincerity against intentional seductiveness. Joshua Rollins is exactly right as Andrew, a bland yet pleasantly engaging Ethan Green type. The troupe is filled out by Elizabeth Ledo as Andrew’s gal pal and Benjamin Sprunger—perhaps a bit too muscular and handsome—as the soft-spoken and eternally-caring med school boyfriend.

Viewed at the final preview, the pace was snappy but timing on a few joke lines still was tentative. Some references, such as one to the Dakota ( the New York building where Rosemary’s Baby was filmed ) , went over the audience’s head. Although happily gay, the production declines to take advantage of numerous possibilities to titillate. Actually, it could use more skin and sex as these are Satan’s allure. But this is About Face, where you only see flesh when they do baseball plays. Nonetheless, you’ll enjoy Say You Love Satan.

-Jonathan Abarbanal


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Scott Duff and Jonathan Pereira, Photo by Michael Brosilow