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Dramashop's Doctor and the Devils is eerie, captivating

Get out the Butcher's Knife... this needs it... --hal

THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS

Written by Dylan Thomas.

Presented by MIT Dramashop.

Directed by Patrick Swanson.

May 4-6 and 11-13.

Kresge Little Theatre.

By HALVARD K. BIRKELAND

THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS is not just about anatomists, beggars, murderers, harlots, and a few mislaid bodies during Britain's industrial revolution. It is also a piercing and morbid look at modern society, success, and the price of progress.

The title's Dr. Rock is a passionate teacher and student of anatomy who attracts attention from everywhere. His Academy of Anatomy has grown to such an extent that the supply of raw materials (the bodies) cannot keep up. With little concern for the consequences, Rock figuratively turns to the devil for the progress, and the bodies, that he needs. (Christopher Coon '90 plays Rock with energy and aggressiveness.)

Broom (Derek Clark '89) and Fallon (Matt McCarty '89) play the devils -- two penniless proles searching only for their next drink. Although the two begin grave robbing for money, their greed for money, wine, and women quickly consumes their souls. Eventually, they murder the poor, the crippled, and the travelers, selling the fresh bodies to the Academy. Clark and McCarty performed as a team with gusto, drawing the audience into their bawdy tavern existence.

The murders go unnoticed -- nobody cares that the poor are disappearing -- until Rock's fellow anatomist Murray (Bobby Amini '92) finds the body of his mistress, Jennie Bailey (Marcella Obdrzalek '92), on the dissecting table. While Amini portrayed the aged Murray with great care and understanding, Obdrzalek's Bailey (when alive) was even more shallow than the harlot should have been.

By far the most interesting and captivating aspects of the production were the sets and the steel cello (a large metal sheet played with a cello bow). Two musicians (Michael Punzak and John Fleagle) produced the chilling, bone grating strains needed for the cold, dreary academy and helped capture the warm frivolity of the tavern. The intricately detailed set captured the emptiness of Rock's house, the squalor of Fallon's flat, and the warmth of the tavern. The technical ingredients, demonstrably successful, supported the cast but did not dominate.

The staging, however, sometimes intruded. In the first act, the show was carried by the narrators, who upstaged the actors during many of the opening scenes. Fortunately, the narrators' roles diminished by the second act. A downstage stretcher proved too disquieting and again detracted from the opening scenes. Even so, The Doctor and the Devils remains an enjoyable and enlightening production.