Skylight Theater’s The Devil’s Wife Pits Good vs. Evil
When you enter Skylight Theatre to see The Devil’s Wife, you know you’re in for an unusual theater experience. The Victorian set featuring antique furniture, flickering chandeliers, and an ornate central door creates an eerie atmosphere, which is enhanced by a fog creating a foreboding aura of evil.
Tom Jacobson’s macabre drama is a tale of lust, jealousy and greed set in a traditional world where men dominate and custom requires that the eldest sister must marry before her younger sisters can find love. The story, loosely based on an Italian folktale, is darkly comedic.
The timeframe for the story is mid-19th century. Three sisters dressed in somber black mourning attire have just returned from their father’s burial. They are faced with dire poverty and wonder how they will survive. Their inherited 33,000-acre estate has become worthless due to drought and an infestation of locusts.
Enter Nicolas Mastema, a handsome but sinister attorney (Everette Wallin). Dressed in black with red gloves, he is the personification of the devil. Unbeknownst to the sisters, he is a serial monogamist ala Blackbeard of fairy tale fame. To provide for the sisters’ security, he offers to marry Bonita, the eldest (Mariel Neto) in exchange for a dowry of 1/3 of their land. Although she expresses reluctance, Bonita agrees to the marriage, but she finds excuses not to consummate the deal. Her husband gives her free reign to explore his house with the caveat to never open the forbidden door to the cellar. Naturally, this prohibition is too tempting, and she ultimately succumbs, falling into an abyss.
It now falls to Dulce, the second sister, (Alana Dietze) to marry the attorney. She is filled with lust, but the temptation of the forbidden door proves to be too strong. Sofia, the youngest, but more intellectual sister (Caro Zeller), is now in line to marry the creepy attorney. Unlike her sisters, she has different ideas about how to handle him. She expresses her power by wielding a large stick, rending the air and pounding the floor.
Ultimately this is an allegory, questioning the existence of evil. The Devil’s character explains that Hell is created to give people their hearts’ desires, but perdition is forever.
This is also a tale of female empowerment at a time when women did not have much control over their destinies.
Director Eric Hoff sets a face pace, and the action pulls the audience through the play wondering if evil will win the day. Jeff McLaughlin’s lighting design and sound by Christopher Moscatiello add to the drama’s ambience. Adult content.
The Devil’s Wife runs through August 27th, Saturdays at 8:30 p.m.; 3 p.m. Skylight Theatre 1816 ½ N. Vermont. $15-$39. (213)761-7061 or SkylightTix.com.