BWW Review: Demons Come to Collect in the Very Funny SOUL SURVIVOR from Hiraeth Theatre Company
Lisa (Anna Stefanic) opens the door to her home and switches on the light. A naked man is sprawled out on the floor with food. He "bellows a pained roar." She shrieks, fumbles her groceries and quickly douses the offending brightness. When she turns the light back on, a paper shopping bag has been placed on the man's head. "God damn it, Davey" she says. The damnation of that moment will carry through the very funny Soul Survivor.
Why is Lisa's brother Dave naked? "My clothes were fire ants." He is obviously strung out on something. His sister may be used to taking care of him but this time survival is going to be much more challenging. "They're coming tonight. Coming for us," Dave warns ominously. Turns out brother Dave (TJ Vinsavich) has sold his own and also Lisa's soul to the devil. Ding dong, the doorbell rings. "Hi, we're here to take your souls."
From the start, playwright Dante Piro takes the form of a modern but eccentric Charon ferrying his victims across the river Styx. This journey, however, is anything but gloomy. Soul Survivor is a broad comedy which piles on one ludicrous scene after another. Amazingly, the boat never capsizes despite the increasing burden of topping the previous segment. The plot is soundly structured but the goofy shenanigans played for laughs are the reason to climb on board this raucous trip to hell.
Liriel and Sable are the Soul Collectors who ring the doorbell before busting in to collect what is due. These ladies are fairly new at their job and not completely effective. The plot dynamics continue. Dave cannot find his sister's soul. Where did he put it? How was he able to sell her soul anyway? She made him a mix CD when they were younger. Lisa put her heart and soul into creating "Davie's Rockin' B-Day Jamz." There's a lot of Fugees in that mix. "Fugees rule." Lisa's been wandering around soulless ever since.
Meanwhile, Kyle from hell is checking in on the soul collectors who are taking too much time completing their mission. Lisa is working hard to distract them. The demons are introduced to the wonder that is vodka. "Wowza" is the reaction. There's nothing like that down in hell. They only drink "pus, acid, bees if you're lucky." The dialogue is quick and sharp but also silly and ridiculous. That's the formula for laughs here.
Will Lisa and Dave be escorted to hell or can they find a loophole in the signed contract? Thank goodness Lisa's earnestly nice boyfriend Owen (Mark Weatherup Jr.) comes into the picture to help. "I'm a paralegal, babe. This is the only time I'm cool." Chandler Matkins makes a spirited entrance as Teddy who suspects the demons from hell are incompetent.
The laughter never flags but if you look closely, themes bubble under the surface. The importance of familial bonds. The incompetence of big bumbling bureaucracies. How your life choices will be weighed when you are gone. Why scissors are useful but potentially dangerous weapons.
Energetically directed by Molly Brown, this inspired buffoonery consistently delivers on its humorous premise. The cast is uniformly excellent. If your soul is going to be condemned, the journey to Hades will be a helluva lot more fun with soul collectors Aleigha K. Spinks and, especially, Samantha Nugent as your guides.
Need a recipe to shake off some of the winter blues? The cold? Take a trip to hell via Soul Survivor. It's notoriously warm there, and full of piss and vinegar. Laughs are guaranteed.