People go to shrinks for lots of different reasons – from those who go simply to download their gripes, thoughts, disappointments and vexations on a weekly basis to a nonjudgmental party, to those who are grappling with some serious disorders such as acute stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addictions of all sorts, panic attacks . . . the list goes on and on. When we meet Tom Blander (Ryan Tramont) we find that his reasons for coming to Dr. Fine (Brad Fryman) are a little different. Tom is convinced he’s possessed by a demon – and please don’t confuse this for the hallucinations of schizophrenia or the multiple personalities of a Dissociative. No . . . Tom is convinced he has a real, living, fulling autonomous demon egging him on to do Bad Things. So begins Christopher Stetson Boal’s Order (directed by Austin Pendleton) now playing at The Kirk @ Theatre Row.
Tom is, aside from this “possessed by a demon” thing, a pretty decent guy. Maybe he lets a little too much pass him by, like opportunities to connect with his wife, Maisy (Amanda Plant) who finds reading and re-reading the Harry Potter canon far more interesting than relaxing at the end of the day snuggled up with her husband to review the day’s events over a glass of mid-priced wine. Tom also opts out of taking the opportunity to stand up to his ridiculously high-strung boss, Adam Jacoby (Mac Brydon). Rather, he wordlessly sits at his desk as his manic boss fires high octane insults at him in rapid succession before finally hurling a cup of coffee at him. Hell, Tom is so meek that when he’s greeted every day by the same homeless man (James Washington), he’s brow-beaten into giving the man not just some spare change, but the exact amount that the man demanded.
Is it any wonder than when the demon, who we come to find out is known as “Bathug” (Gabe Bettio), makes his presences known in Tom’s life, there’s plenty of room for him to move in? Bathug – claiming to be an ancient creature who has always been part of humanity – seems to be the only one on Tom’s side; Dr. Fine (Brad Fryman) can only use their weekly therapy sessions to twist everything around and make it about himself, and even Tom’s good friend Joe (James Edward Becton) pokes at Tom’s simple ways, small happinesses and quiet hobbies (Tom’s biggest passion seems to be collecting old tie clips that were once worn by railroad conductors – - and then making up back-stories for these items). So when Bathug starts whispering in Tom’s ear and nudging him towards “Power”, Tom – a little reluctant at first – really has nothing to lose by following his demon’s instinct. Of course, the way he goes about getting that power is a little surprising. Let’s just say – he takes “you are what you eat” to a whole other level.
Order is one part Little Shop of Horrors (Feed me!), one part Network (I’m Mad As Hell and I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore!) and one part Sweeney Todd (because it’s cannibalism, but it’s FUNNY cannibalism, you see). With enough black humor to keep you chuckling throughout the play, some of the stronger themes that Boal is illustrating go down much easier.
Pendelton’s direction allows for broad acting which keeps this play more wink wink than horrifying which – after all – is what you’d want from your demon plays. Tramont’s Tom plays both sides of the scale convincingly; watching his transformation from meek yes-man to fast talking soulless wonder is easy to believe, and when he hugs his wife at the end you can feel his motivation surging through his new found persona.
Quirky, dark and a bit frantic at times, Order is a fun play that will have you questioning the possibility of your own inner demon.
~~~ORDER Remaining Shows: June 30, July 1, 2, 3 at 8PM Kirk Theater at Theater Row 410 West 42nd Street Click Here for tickets.