When a dental appointment turns into a wrestling match with Satan himself, quick-thinking Deb becomes the Devil's soul scavenger in the world premiere of Keith Reddin's Synergy, opening at the Alley Theatre's Neuhaus Arena Stage in Houston, TX, Feb. 7. Performances began Feb. 2 for a run through March 4.
When Synergy's heroine Deb arrives at her dental date in hell (literally!), she meets a Dean Martin-ish Satan, who trades her soul for the opportunity to gather the souls of others. Where better to begin her quest than at...the Walt Disney Corporation.
And why did playwright Reddin choose the family friendly Disney for the de-souling by the Devil?
Well, while Disney may not have coined the word "synergy," they were one of the first to use it in the media. When Disney and ABC merged in the late '90's, they announced to the world "This is a great synergy of the people creating entertainment and the people desciminating the entertainment." The title seemed natural.
But it's also the aforemention image of family friendliness, one that says "We're a family entertainment organization. We're this happy company - we're all happy," Reddins says, even while, "they are the most ruthless, facist, Satanic corporation." Something's creepy about the place, he implies, already rift with Satanic influences. After all this is a place that demands a dress code and encourages its employees to live in a Disney town "like the 'Truman Show' set" and where Disney is the local government, the police force and the court system.
Taking that idea to the limit, Reddin creates a Disney universe where the slogan is "Disney From Cradle to Grave" and an ex-military mind control experiment who once conducted LSD trials on unsuspecting persons now has a job convincing America that all Disney is good. One example of this mass control: after purchasing the phone companies, Disney then convinces everyone they need cell phones, knowing full well that the devices cause cancer. All the better for them - Disney doctors at the Disney HMOs can then treat the brain disease.
Disney from cradle to grave, indeed! Reddin admits the play is over the top and styled a bit like "Dr. Strangelove" or Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders." He hopes, however, that unlike that play, where random killings on the streets of New York City are no longer a satirist's pipe dream, his comedy will never come true.
"But you wonder - that shit that goes on in the war room [in "Strangelove"] - well, how much of that is exaggeration?" he asks.
An actor as well as playwright, Reddin finished Synergy while performing in the role of Gunner in the Alley's Misalliance back in May, 1999. After organizing a reading with his castmates, he took the script to Alley artistic director Gregory Boyd, who immediately took interest in producing it at the Alley.
Reddin's other writing credits include Rum and Coke, Life During Wartime, The Innocent's Crusade and an adaptation of Bulgakov's Black Snow.
Atlantic Theatre co-founder Karen Kohlhaas directs. Her credits with that company include Harold Pinter's The Hothouse and David Mamet's The Water Engine and Mr. Happiness.
Jenny Maguire is Deb, the hapless soul searcher with Edmond Genest as the Brat Pack Devil, who thinks of the Bible as "the longest bad review in history." Also featured in the cast are Reathel Bean (Sidney), Christopher Duva (Roland), Callum Keith-King (Otto), Fay Ann Lee (Jade, Michelle) and Eric Sheffer Stevens (Marc).
Designing Synergy are Kevin Rigdon (sets), Michael Lincoln (lighting), Karyl Newman (costumes) and Malcolm Nicholls (sound).
Tickets to Equus are $49-$19. The Alley Theatre is located at 615 Texas Avenue. For reservations, call (713) 228-8421 or (800) 259-ALLE. The Alley Theatre is on the web at http://www.alleytheatre.com.
— By Christine Ehren