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LA Theater Review

The Devil Takes a Wife

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Darkly foreboding metaphors don't blend well with giddy showcase shtick in writer-performer Anita Finlay's 75-minute vehicle, a fractured Faustian fable. At times this attempt at an absurdist solo show feels like a dated feminist tract. But, for the most part, its scattershot vignettes don't coalesce into anything meaningful or particularly entertaining.

The framing device for Finlay's odyssey of self-discovery — think Building Self-Esteem 101 — begins with a car accident that results in Finlay's fiancé lying in a coma in a hospital, on the brink of death. (It's anyone's guess as to which, if any, details in the show coincide with facts.) The devil — or some composite symbol of chauvinistic males — pressures Finlay into making a deal. If she will wed him and be at his beck and call for six months, he will allow her fiancé to live. When she agrees, and the devil takes her away to his lair, Finlay plays the creepy satanic persona plus her own persona and a multitude of other characters, including her family members and sundry celebrities. Though the disturbing elements — such as her fiancé lying near death and ugly anecdotes about her upbringing and her mistreatment by men — are presumably intended as ironic juxtapositions to her standup comedy indulgences and bawdy gags, the mix doesn't jell. The piece seems designed more to allow Finlay to portray as many different types of characters as possible than to have these disparate elements add up to a coherent vision.

Finlay is a resourceful and energetic performer, but her haphazard vehicle disappoints. David Galligan's direction is capable, but the script needs a major overhaul. Perhaps one needn't sell one's soul to the devil to score a success in the solo-show form, but it's a tough, often-elusive feat to pull off.

Presented by Le Studio/Nathalie Yves Gaulthier at Le Studio, 3025 W. Olympic Blvd., Stage A, Santa Monica. Thu. 8 p.m. Apr. 12-May 31. www.gaulthierartist.com.

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