Gritty, dark Devil's Night makes impressive premiere at Sherry

By Pauline Adamek
Studio City Sun

A massive projection screen dominates the tiny stage of newly opened The Sherry Theatre, blocking our view of the set and serving as a proscenium curtain. A CNN-style image is being projected; it's a long shot of a large prison complex with captions indicating this is live coverage of the Statesville Prison Riot. Text scrolls below the almost static image, describing how Devil's Night (and the name of this play), the night before Halloween, is typically a night of mischief, murder and mayhem. This evening's riots in the prison coincide with the scheduled midnight execution of a serial killer nicknamed "The Doc."

Curiously, however, the screen rises on a dingy domestic scene and we are thrown right into an emotional prologue. A young woman is clearly distraught. Brady Mason (played by Jamie Anne Brown) is railing at an unseen God, praying and crying and screaming for a miracle.Her anguish is so palpable it grips us immediately. There's a knock at the door and Brady buries her face in the embrace of a young man wearing military fatigues. As the dialogue gently reveals, this is Brady's brother Joseph (Lukas Behnken), who has returned at her behest. But he refuses to accompany her tonight to the prison to witness their father's execution; he disowned his father a long time ago. Brady is crushed, but faces a grim evening without her brother by her side.

The projection screen descends again to mask an elaborate set change, and we watch a short fi lm of street scenes overlaid with atmospheric music and mug shot images informing us of Statesville Prison's most notorious inmates. It's a motley gallery of hardened criminals that chills you to the bone. Thereafter, the drama is set inside the cells.

As the long night progresses, we witness the terror and brutality of life behind bars. The ever shifting power play amongst the prisoners and various guards is fascinating to observe. It seems everyone has an agenda. At times the performances are so authentic and affecting that you forget they are acting. The large cast features superb actors, including Brian Lally as "The Doc," Wesley Thornton as the nervy "celebrity" inmate Clay, and Nick Murray as the twitchy king pin and guru Glitch who accrues intelligence on everyone.

Devil's Night is an original play (soon to go into production as an independent fi lm) and is well-staged in this new venue. Written by Scott Haze and Marshall Allman, this savage and gritty drama is absolutely not for the squeamish. Taking on the role of director, set designer and co-composer (along with Mark Foster) Haze certainly has a lot on his plate. He even stars as "A.O.," one of the three main inmates in the infi rmary ward. Interesting, tense and almost unbearably violent, Devil's Night offers an insight into the humanity that lies beneath the brutality.