Madcap. Bizarre. Bemusing. Raucous. All apt words to describe A Devil Inside, College of Charleston Center Stage’s contemporary murder mystery. The action gets out of hand at times, with too much crazy shit going on for the audience to follow. But the student actors derive some strong moments from David Lindsey-Abaire’s twisted script.

Gene Slater is a 21-year-old student living in New York who skateboards for tips outside his mom’s Laundromat. For his birthday, Mrs. Slater gives him a shocking revelation: His father was murdered and his feet severed. She’s kept them in a jar to prove it. Now she feels that it is time for Gene to become a man, seek out his father’s killer ,and avenge his death.

Gene thinks his mom is looney, so he continues his studies. He’s fascinated by Caitlyn, a serious young woman who is his Russian literature class. She has a thing for their professor, the moody Carl. Carl in turn is obsessed by Brad, a repairman who is so dull that the professor is sure no one will miss him if he wipes him off the face of the earth. Brad can’t get enough of Lily, an artist with a foot fetish.

All six characters intersect as Gene is drawn into the murder investigation. As their obsessions start to consume them and they lose their grip on reality, their whole world seems to be crashing down around them; Manhattan is flooding, wild dogs roam the streets ,and life is as cheap as a tumble in a coin-operated dryer.

Director Kelly Jewell splits her stage into five sections: a subway train, Brad’s Fix-It Shop, a classroom, the laundromat, and a bar. Richard Dunn’s set design is inventive, with windows on the shop and laundromat, posters in the bar, and other small touches that make each area seem functional and lived-in. A lot of the action takes place in the laundromat, where we first meet Gene (played with allure and wit by Will Haden) and Mrs. Slater (Jennifer McCormick, in an outstanding, utterly committed turn as a devoted if unbalanced mom with a New Yawk accent).

Next door, Brad (Michael Hanf) becomes increasingly unhinged, allowing the actor to become increasingly manic in Act Two. Hanf is a joy to watch even if he appears a lot younger than the character should be. Lily (Brittany Brown) is the most stable character, allowing Brown to deliver a solid performance. Richard Dunn also acts in the play as Carl, a dark and tortured soul who is fascinating to watch in his classroom scenes.

The quirky, sometimes gruesome goings-on won’t be to everyone’s taste. A few audience members left halfway through the show with comments like, “Oh my God!”, “Shit!” and “God, help me.” One can only wonder what they would have said about the gory climax. It’s a confusing flurry of activity switching from one side of the stage to the other (with a dream sequence thrown into the middle). Nevertheless there are enough jokes, satirical comments, wild coincidences, and Dostoevskyan references to keep this murder mystery interesting.

A DEVIL INSIDE • Piccolo’s Stelle Di Domani Series • $12-15 • 2 hours • May 28-31, June 1, 3-7 at 7.30 p.m. • Theatre 220, Simons Centers for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. • (888) 374-2656