WINDY CITY TIMES
||The Devil's Sonata
by Rick Reed
This article shared 2484 times since Wed Apr 2, 2003
Playwright: Mark Glinski
At: Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway
Phone: (773) 276-3434; $15
Runs through: April 27
The idea behind Mark Glinski's new play, The Devil's Sonata, is about as old as the devil himself: striking a deal to exchange one's soul with Satan in exchange for riches, fame, a lifetime supply of Manolo Blahnik pumps, or whatever your greedy little heart desires. It's a credit to Glinski that he's able to breathe some new life and explore some new territory in this always fascinating, but rather careworn theme.
Glinski's play, developed under the aegis of Visions and Voices Theatre Company, transports us back to Padua, Italy in 1766, where composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini languishes in a state of emotional and creative despair. He has never been able to get over the death of his beloved wife, Elizabeth, and has become a recluse, uninspired and devoid of hope. In other words, ripe for a visit from God's most famous fallen angel. Satan appears to Tartini during a restless night and, during the course of his visit, provides several temptations: the return of his wife, transformed fingers allowing him to play the violin with inhuman skill, and a sonata which could restore him to economic and artistic vitality. The interesting aspect that Glinski raises with this play is not the Faustian bargain (that's kind of old hat and Tartini's struggle with temptation is rather pedestrian), but what the devil hopes to get out of the bargain, which isn't so much Tartini's soul, but a mouthpiece so that the Devil can speak to God about restoring him to Heaven.
If Glinski had played more upon this fresh theme, and had maintained the kind of inspired dialogue and interplay between his characters that he demonstrates during Satan's nocturnal visit, the Devil's Sonata would be, perhaps, a major new work. Glinski's devil is witty, likable, clever and, in his own way, tortured. Tom Hickey plays him with a self-effacing charm that called to mind John Malkovich. It's in the interchanges between Tartini and Satan that the soul of the play (if you will) lives; the middle section is alive with the kind of artistry the beginning and ending of the play are desperately in need of. But Glinski goes for easy solutions (the whole temptation sequence was all a dream … hmmm, where have I heard that one before?) and the play's opening doesn't draw us in as much as it might have.
But The Devil's Sonata does have a lot going for it: crisp direction, inspired performances, and violin music from Poi Dog Pondering's Susan Voelz, who appears in the backgrounds of scenes where her music is integral like a sexy doe-eyed wraith. It just may be that Glinski needs to bargain a little more with the devil to achieve greatness. He should ask for the ability to let go and follow his artistic instincts.
This article shared 2484 times since Wed Apr 2, 2003
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