Divinity Bash/Nine Lives Call In Sick Productions, at the Back Door

T he characters in Divinity Bash/ nine lives love to talk. Sometimes they talk to the audience, and sometimes they talk to each other, but always they talk and talk and talk. Blue-collar Snake (Ben Plont) talks about loving to sing karaoke and also being a repressed gay man. Crazy Liam (Jerrod Roylance), whom Snake is in love with, talks about madness. Snake's wife, Myrna (Julie Starbird), talks about how much she hates Snake. The hot-shot executive at the company where Snake works as a janitor, Marty (Jeff Woods), talks about ditching his family to get ahead in the business world. The guy he fucked over to get his job, Albert (Geoff Bergman), talks about being homeless and penniless in Marty's wake. The gay punky kid, Lamb (Matthew Combs), who Albert hooks up with on the streets, talks about being gay. Lamb's junkie friend, Alice (Angie Lawless), talks about her dead ex-lover, a woman. It starts to get messy. As the play's title suggests there are nine characters like these. Nine is too many.

Playwright Bryden MacDonald's script could benefit from some cuts. The cross-dressing male whore, Glorious (Vicente Guzman-Orozco) is a walking wad of angst-ridden sexual identity clichés, and the electric wheelchair-bound sage, Evangeline (Katie Wallack) spouts new-age soliloquies that are not insightful, but boring. Indeed, soliloquies are a problem in this play. The incessant chatter of MacDonald's characters is only interesting when it is directed at other characters. Lamb has fascinating stories to tell Albert about growing up a repressed homosexual before hitting the streets. Ditto Liam, who tells Snake all about how he was abducted by aliens. Alice does his part, too, filling in Lamb on the desperate loneliness she has felt ever since her lover died.

A script so hodge-podge seems like it would be hard to produce fluidly. Director Tom Moorman does well, though the technical aspects of his show are dodgy at best, particularly when he tries to cram the entire cast onto the tiny Back Door stage, an event that happens many times more than it should. The cast is great, though, particularly Plont, who uses surly charm to maximum effect. Roylance also fares well as the wild-eyed Liam, and as the heartbroken Alice, Lawless expertly hides her despair with an escapist's dark humor. When her tears come, they are real and gut-wrenching.

Moments with the well-written characters are nice, but frustrating. They are reminders of what this play could have been if it wasn't so long and indulgent. It's all about supply and demand. Increased supply = decreased demand. Divinity has a surplus supply of conversation. Thus, its talk is cheap. JUSTIN SANDERS