The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings






Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
The Devil's Disciple

"It's not the money, General, but being swindled by a pig-headed lunatic like King George." — Richard "Dick" Dudgeon
James Knight and Elizabeth A. Davis (Photo Credit: Jerry Dalia)
What better way was there to top off the festivities that went with the celebration of the 4th of July than by going the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey to see a wonderfully robust production of the only play that George Bernard Shaw set in America. You should not only consider it your patriotic duty to see this very funny Victorian melodrama, but also to appreciate how prescient and topical is Shaw's warning about how puritanical values bring misery.

The self-described "upstart son of a downstart," Shaw has also been labeled (as he has himself once said of Oscar Wilde) "the world's most thorough playwright." To be sure, the "upstart," delighted himself by toying with every social, political, moral and ethical rebellion from here to Methuselah and back. In his most rebellious mood with The Devil's Disciple , he cleverly probed into the ceremoniously veiled presumptions about Godliness and deviltry.

Is it less than Godliness when the irreverent and incorrigible Dick Dudgeon, the black sheep of the family (according to the conventional community standards of Websterbridge, N.J. in 1777), not only takes an orphan under his wing but also takes the place of the purposefully dedicated Parson Anderson at the foot of the gallows? And what are we to make of the parson's quick decision to sell his Bibles in order to buy pistols so he, with the help of a neighboring band of patriots, can surround Burgoyne's army and affect Dick's release?

The Devil's Disciple is full of tantalizing questions and startling discoveries about people who may indeed be more or less than the labels society has affixed to them. This mildly spicy and winningly short melodrama has been appointed to a commendable, comically inclined company of actors whose delight it is to make every minute invigorating and fun. Act 1 is dominated by a vigorously disarming James Knight, as "Dick" Dudgeon a smuggler who lives with Gypsies and is branded as "wicked, dissolute, godless."

With the Act 2 arrival of the Edmund Genest's pretentiously authoritative "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne, the company thrusts itself with comedic aplomb wholeheartedly into the philosophically endowed havoc. Genest, who is celebrating his nineteenth season with the Shakespeare Theatre, drolly delivers Burgoyne's best line, when he proclaims the solemnity of the occasion with "Martyrdom, sir, is what these people like. It is the only way a man can become famous without ability."

As it is true about Shakespeare, Shaw remains relevant. When Parson Anderson asks Burgoyne: "Have you realized that though you may occupy towns and win battles, you cannot conquer a nation?" it is a chilling reminder of how Americans have ironically assumed a role similar to the one the British once had on foreign soil.

Directed with unhurried confidence by Paul Mullins, Shaw's slight but stingingly irreverent comedy remains a remarkably buoyant and relevant exposure of the puritanical. Making a delightfully conflicted spectacle of herself as the parson's wife who can't get that "blasphemous," rogue Dick out of her mind, Elizabeth Davis is a wide-eyed delight. Knight and Davis give their unwittingly intimate scenes just the right touch of don't-touch-me- but-I'm-yours-if-you-want-me.

Giving us only subtle clues to his character's guarded patriotism, Paul Niebanck is splendid as the Clark Kent into super "man of action" parson. There is plenty to laugh at in Conor Carew's goofy portrayal of Dick's brother, the intellectually challenged Christy Dudgeon, as well as in the hypocritical piety of the Widow Dudgeon, as portrayed with sanctimonious rigidity by Cynthia Mace. Orphan Essie's insecurity is sweetly captured by Katie Willmorth. Matt Sullivan is as convincing as Uncle Titus Dudgeon, as he is also playing the incompetent and insipid Major Swindon.

The play's four locations — the Dudgeon dwelling, the minister's home, British headquarters and the gallows yard — are cleverly adapted within the single unit and effectively raised wooden setting designed by Brittany Vasta. This made for an unobstructed view of all the action. The original New York production in 1897 boasted thirty-three featured players among the one hundred that trod the stage, including soldiers and a military band.

More modestly staged here in 2014 with a cast of thirteen, there was, nevertheless, ample spectacle in the sight of the colorfully uniformed British soldiers harassing members of the audience even as they paraded up and down the aisles. As this served as my eleven year old grandson's introduction to Shaw, I am pleased to say that he gave it his patriotic approval.

The Devil's Disciple By George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Paul Mullins

Cast: Cynthia Mace (Mrs. Anne Dudgeon), Katie Willmorth (Essie), Connor Carew (Christy Dudgeon), Paul Niebanck (Anthony Anderson), Elizabeth A. Davis (Judith Anderson), Michael Daly (Uncle William Dudgeon/Chaplain), Rosemary Wall (Aunt Forbearance Dudgeon), Matt Sullivan (Uncle Titus Dudgeon/Major Swindon), Nancy Rich (Aunt Theodosia Dudgeon), James Knight (Richard "Dick" Dudgeon), John Little (Lawyer Hawkins/Officer), Sheffield Chastain (Sergeant), Edmond Genest (General Burgoyne), Soldiers (Samuel Cheeseman, Samuel Hardy, Stark Kirby, Chris Rothbauer, Jeffrey Allen Sneed.
Scenic Designer: Brittany Vasta
Lighting Designer: Andrew Hungerford
Costume Designer: Candida Nichols
Sound Designer: Steven L. Beckel
Production Stage Manager: Alison Cote
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, in the F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, located on the campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Ave (at Lancaster Road) in Madison.
Tickets: $15 to $75
Performances: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays at 7:30 pm; Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm.
From 07/02/14 Opened 07/05/14 Ends 07/20/14
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/05/14

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of The Devil's Disciple
  • I disagree with the review of The Devil's Disciple
  • The review made me eager to see The Devil's Disciple
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

>Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email and state if you'd like your comments published in our letters section. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter
The New Similes Dictionary
New Similes Dictionary

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows-the complete set

You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company


©Copyright 2014, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from