Friday, June 25, 2010

Kenley Smith's 'Devil Sedan' Is Superb

With his character-heavy drama "Devil Sedan," playing at Studio Roanoke, Kenley Smith continues to give Roanokers reason to forget there is/was a professional theater in town, one that died and is seeking resurrection.

Mill Mountain who? seems to be the popular refrain in the evening on Campbell Ave. these days.

"Devil Sedan" is another of Kenley's signature pieces: raw Southern characters you've probably known if you grew up here, dressed up in short scenes that cumulatively amount to a powerful statement about our culture and our humanity.

"Devil Sedan" looks at a couple of brothers, one more the daddy, the other a n'er do well drunk who stays in trouble. They're Harleigh and Bobby Pence and this is the first in a trilogy about Bobby Pence (the others will run as "Twelve Stations of the Cross" and "New Testament" in October and February).

"Devil Sedan" centers on an apparent murder of two young fundamentalist Christian girls on a camping trip with their church and the role Bobby and Harleigh either did or didn't play in it. The build-up is subtle, often funny (when Kenley goes after the Christian right, it can be hilarious--unless you're the Christian right) and culturally knowing. Kenley knows us all too well on occasion.

The production is made even stronger by the presence of Lynchburg actor Paul Stober, a powerful presence in a powerful role. Austin Alderman's Bobby Pence is convincing and Caitlin Morgan and Elizabeth Gwen Edwards, as the murdered girls, are superb. Omaha-based director Lorie Obradovich's work is spot-on.

"Devil Sedan" features a big cast and it's long for a Kenley Smith piece, but it doesn't play long and it is satisfying theater. It plays four more times Saturday and Sunday. Tonight's show was sold out, so if you want tickets, you might want to call ahead: 540-343-3054.


  1. Thank you for the review. I had intended to see it, as several of my friends are in it, but I'm just not up for a play that denigrates or makes sport of Christians.

  2. Michael, I think that may be an over simplification of this play. The lead character is clearly a Jesus in walking the walk rather than talking the talk. The play sets up an interesting parallel between those who simply orate as Christians and those who truly have faith and believe in the power of a promise made to God and to family. I think that you would not find this play void of faith but rather are a smart enough man to understand the subtle nature of what is being said between the lines. (Miriam Frazier)

  3. Kenley is engaging in the fine southern tradition of storytelling here and he is writing about what he knows. These obnoxious faux Christians who hate far more than they love, who confuse and traumatize their children with their messages, who castigate people for "sins of the flesh" that they so enthusiastically engage in are easy targets, but Kenley is far gentler in his humor than some of us might have been. Religion based on hate and intolerance is not as rare as it should be and ridicule is the best way to deal with it.