What is it? David Lindsay-Abaire’s 1997 play about a young man who learns that his missing 400-pound dad was murdered while hiking through the Poconos. The youth sets out to avenge his father’s death.

Why see it? Lindsay-Abaire has playwriting awards out the wazoo, including a Pulitzer, an L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award, and an award from the S.C. Playwrights Festival. With A Devil Inside, he’s created a cruel yet wildly imaginative world that maintains a loose orbit around contemporary culture. The young protagonist and the wacky milieu are perfect for the College of Charleston’s theater department.

Who should go? Fathers, sons, hikers, PURE Theatre regulars, and other fans of finely written, quirky, contemporary theater. Morbidly obese folks might want to sit this one out.

PICCOLO SPOLETO • $12-$15 • 2 hours • May 23-26, 28-31, June 1, 3-7 at 7:30 p.m. • Theatre 220, Simons Center for the Arts,
54 St. Philip St. • (888) 374-2656

Dead Funny: Center Stage likes black comedy

David Lindsay-Abaire’s A Devil Inside is about a guy named Gene who resides in New York’s Lower East Side. He learns on his 21st birthday the truth about his father’s disappearance 14 years earlier. His mom tells him that his 400-pound dad, while hiking in the Poconos, was stabbed in the back, his feet were lopped off, and he was thrown into a ditch.

But Gene is more interested in Caitlin, an ardent literature major, than hunting down his dad’s killer. Caitlin in turn is less interested in Gene than in her teacher, a beleaguered genius steeped in Russian literature. Other characters pop up, including an enigmatic lady named Lily and her husband, a rut-stuck appliance repairman who writes children’s stories as an escape from his dull existence.

In Lindsay-Abaire’s hands it isn’t dull for long, thanks to the aforementioned severed feet, which have a tendency to show up whenever the characters meet.

So far, so macabre.

But this whodunit soon becomes a bizarre comedy.

It manages to include a city flood, fits, delusions, train crashes, suicide, and self-mutilation amidst its murder mystery elements. Think of it like Dexter, the CBS series about a forensic detective who kills criminals, says Todd McNerney, chair of the CofC Theater Department. In an entertainment market where a network can cheerfully broadcast a show where the main character cuts people up, it’s hardly a surprise that A Devil Inside has found a willing audience since its 1997 premiere.

“It’s very odd how this really obscure crime could be funny, but it is,” he says. “It has that very dark kind of humor.”

The play is produced by Center Stage, a student group that, as McNerney explains, “operates somewhat independently of our department.” This is the third year in a row they’ve put on a show for Piccolo. (Trust and Closer are previous productions.) As before, they’ll be in the cozy little black box space in the Simons Center’s Theatre 220. The cast includes Richard Dunne (recently seen in Arabian Nights) and Jennifer McCormick (Quilters). The director is Kelly Jewell, who played a memorably swaggering Catesby in last year’s CofC production of Richard III.

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