Hellraiser

When is a play about Satanism not a play about Satanism? When it's Mac Rogers's Hail Satan, now playing at the Bleecker Street Theater as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. Sure, there's unholy doctrine, hooded figures, and a ritual, but this story is more about fathers and daughters than Lords and Dark Lords. Tom, a copywriter who's average in every way, finds himself quickly hired by the tight-knit clan working in an office in a high-rise. Unafraid of long hours (albeit afraid of fatherhood), he's accepted immediately into the group, and is even invited to join in their Sunday religious services. But when he realizes that these services involve worshiping Satan, he's unnerved, though not enough to quit, or even to avoid getting involved with co-worker and Satanist Kristen.

Tom ends up making it to their church after all and fathering the Anti-Christ, who appears as a cute blonde named Angie. But can Tom really expect to save Angie from her destiny? And why is he more worried about her (and work deadlines) than about his role as the stepfather to the Devil's child?

Playwright Rogers creates a believably mundane office environment as well as a realistic religious group. (Note that they are not affiliated with the Church of Satan but are their own sect with different ideals.) While the worship scene runs a little long while going over the tenets of Satanism, it's important for the audience to understand (and maybe even relate a little) to what these people believe. You're meant to like them, and then to be disturbed that you like them.

The actors play it low-key and naturalistic. In particular, Sean Williams, who plays group leader Charlie, runs so warm- and cold-hearted that it's easy to forget that he's diabolical until his words slap you in the face. Director Jordana Williams's occasionally static direction (in the name of realism) is vindicated by the pacing and performances she gets out of her cast.

This show has some gore, but is not strictly horror. It also has some laughs, but it's certainly not a comedy. What we have here is honest-to-goodness adult drama, with a little genre thrown into the mix. It's a refreshing change of pace from the emptiness of summer entertainment and will stay with you when the bright lights of the Fringe have dimmed.

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