Goodnight Poon 

Dirty Story Time with Shel Silverstein

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SHEL SILVERSTEIN is best known for his children's books, and the same traits that make his G-rated works unforgettable—unobstructed imagination, a masterful hand with allegory, and a supernatural syntactical sense—come out just as forcefully in the Silverstein-penned play The Devil and Billy Markham, where the Big O in question is that of a two-pronged devil dick. (This play first appeared as a lyrical poem in Playboy.)

In Billy Markham, the whole world is seen from a Nashville barstool. The devil incarnate is a crooked dice player, and the eponymous Billy Markham's descent to nether-nether land begins when he bets his soul on rolling 13, saying, "In 14 years on Music Row, that's the best damn chance I've had."

In the role of the hell-bound country singer Billy Markham, actor Jonah Weston convinced me that if he ended up in a seedy dive with Markham, the two would swap stories, ingest bourbon in fountain soda-sized quantities, and Markham would say Weston was an "alright son-of-a-bitch"—that is to say, he's good, but he never fully inhabits the role. Weston is sharp and funny when in rhythm, but he sometimes rushes the pace—the show runs under an hour. It's laudable that the production team (Weston and director Jamie Rea, under the auspices of Curious Comedy Theater) allows Silverstein's words to speak loudest, but the minimal staging and Weston's steady narration miss adding a strong signature to the production. Expect a campfire instead of a hellfire and you'll enjoy it.

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