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Sip some bourbon

June 25, 2013

Devil and Billy M poster smallerThe Devil and Billy Markham (directed by Amanda McRaven) is an epic poem by Shel Silverstein, it tells the tale of a two time loser stuck in hell. You see he made a bet with his soul against the Devil and lost twice.

I’ll admit, this is the first time I’ve seen a modern epic poem (I’ve seen Greek poems) performed live, it has set the bar extremely high. Every similar performance I see from now on will use The Devil and Billy Markham as it’s rubric. For starters the venue chosen for this performance was spot on. It was The 3 Clubs Cocktail Lounge in Hollywood. A combination dive bar and proper lounge. You’re not only allowed, but encouraged to drink during the performance. What goes better with a story about the Devil, than some bourbon?Devil 2

The performance starts with the band Guitar (Carlos Flores), Keyboards (Hank Doughan), and Drums (Kevin Katich) playing a cross between blues, reggae and something folksy. Out of nowhere the Devil (Arron Lyons) begins to narrate. His voice fills the room, yet at the same time it’s soft and inviting. Drawing you into what will be an amazing ride. The Devil then crosses the room to the stage as he sets the scene. It’s a dark stormy night in a dive bar in Nashville. Arron transitions from character to character as he describes them, giving them voice. His mannerisms change with each character. Each character was painted perfectly. It’s as if each character had their own costume, only it was just one man changing his voice and gestures. Making it all the more impressive that you see so many colorful characters on stage.

Devil 1As the story goes on the Devil finally finds his mark in Billy Markham. Billy rolls the bones made from Jesus’ bones hoping praying for 13. The music crescendos and the drums beat frantically as the invisible dice cross the bar. Silence! Billy lost. He follows the Devil to hell with a smile knowing he gave it his all. Once in hell Aaron takes on the forms of various demons, tortured souls and Billy. He tells the story of how Billy is tortured, and appears to be the Devil‘s favorite play thing. The Devil even gives Billy a chance to roll dem bones again. I won’t give away the rest of the story you have to see The Devil and Billy Markham for yourself to find that out. I will tell you the cast of characters keeps growing and growing. Aaron finding unique voices and body languages for all of them. God even makes an appearance at one point.

Everything about this show pulls you in. From the venue, to the music, the lighting, and even Billy’s Wife (Ruth Fox) seductively and silently dancing throughout the lounge. The world fades away and only the story in front of you exists. There are no heroes or real villains in this story. Just man, beast and various spirits coming together to shoot the shit. Play some cards, roll dem bones. Even though there are no real heroes you can’t help but root for Billy. When he makes mistakes or wrongs others you feel for him, and those he wronged. You hold out hope that everything will end up okay.

Like I said earlier, this performance will be the rubric I hold all modern epic poems to for years to come. It takes you back to a time when there was no TV, when you had to go to the local bars for music and storytelling. It sucks you in and makes you forget the world exists for a brief time, and that’s all we can really ask for from a story.

The Devil and Billy Markham (Directed by Amanda McRaven) runs through Hollywood Fringe Festival.

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