If Dostoyevsky and Durang had a child — not that Fyodor swung that way — it might look something like A Devil Inside, David Lindsay-Abaire’s first play, written a decade before he won a Pulitzer for Rabbit Hole. A dark farce about (I’m guessing here) the corrosive nature of human existence, it counts on cacophonous performances to succeed, and the intrepid cast of the Rep at the Pittsburgh Playhouse doesn’t disappoint.
It’s a good thing, because there’s not much meat on the bones of this frantic farce, which thoroughly demonstrates Tolstoy’s observation that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Turns out the six characters have myriad entanglements, and as Lindsay-Abaire unfolds his convolutions — and as the Poconos become the new Niagara Falls — director Kim Martin keeps her actors flailing enjoyably about the stage.
The neon-tinged single set, filled with detritus that often comes in handy (and footy), serves as a repair shop, a classroom, a subway, and an in-home laundromat run by a dotty woman (Terry Wickline) who wants her exasperated college-boy son (Cav O’Leary) to avenge the murder and bizarre mutilation of his father (long story, won’t bore you with it). He’s crushing on a classmate (Hayley Nielsen, whose outfits range from faux mink to faux pink), who’s swooning over her Russian lit professor (the redoubtable Philip Winters), who’s hunting for a woman (Daina Michelle Griffith) who’s hiding out in the shop of a repair man (Michael Fuller) who — oh, that’s enough.
The title refers to the assorted demons within each character — some metaphorical, one hiding behind the repair man’s right eye — and what those demons compel us to do (as if, in our banality and pathos, we need their help). The first act begins slowly, but once Lindsay-Abaire establishes his premise and cranks up the crazy (he studied with Durang, the modern master of this sort of thing), so do the actors. It’s just hard to see what goes on here as having much to say, so you’ll have to appreciate it as an actor’s delight if you want to appreciate it at all.