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Devour at 20% Theatre Company | Theater review

A tabloid antiheroine’s hunger for fame turns deadly in Chelsea Marcantel’s humorless morality tale.

Photograph: courtesy of 20% Theatre Company
Devour at 20% Theatre Company

We’ve grown accustomed to seeing tabloid tartlets in orange jumpsuits hauled into court for drunk driving and shoplifting, but Anais von Windsor—the billionaire heiress at the center of Chelsea Marcantel’s self-serious and preachy new play—outdoes Lindsay, Paris and the others. She stands accused of murdering three ex-boyfriends. What’s more, she keeps giving interviews where she blithely confesses to the crimes, reasoning that there’s no such thing as bad press.

After initially portraying Anais (Kristen Johnson) as a sociopathic socialite, Marcantel makes an effort to complicate the picture. True, the “Malibu murderer” is publicity-hungry and something of a mean girl, but she’s also smart and her parents ignore her. Once the girl’s tenderhearted defense attorney (Kitty Mortland) starts digging into her client’s past, she finds a lonely, purposeless life full of vapid friends and monotonous partying. Ultimately, it’s a case of too much fame, too little love. If Anais is a monster, she was made by our own celebrity-obsessed culture. And in case you miss the point, Anais recites several passages from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

The poor-little-rich-girl moralizing feels a little too easy, and attempts at satire are hobbled by the fact that Marcantel displays no sense of humor. Director Jacqueline Stone stages the play as if it were a fashion show, placing the audience in rows along a runway. It’s a strong concept in theory—Anais lives as though she’s constantly on a catwalk—but in practice you’re always either craning your neck to see the actors or staring up their nostrils.

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