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'The Devil's Disciple' Sparkles in Revival

August 04, 1995|SCOTT COLLINS

The title character in George Bernard Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple," now gloriously revived at the Occidental Theater Festival, is a tart-tongued American rebel named Dick Dudgeon (Jamie Angell).

At once cynical and noble, the furiously independent Dudgeon makes the archetypical Shavian hero. And this period comedy set during the Revolutionary War reveals the similarly free-thinking playwright at the height of his powers.

Dudgeon is at the center of a melodrama unfolding in a threatened New Hampshire town. British troops, on the run from Colonial forces, have vowed to hang an American rebel as an example. But they mistake the local pariah Dudgeon for their intended victim, the respectable burgher Reverend Anderson (Christopher Coddington).

Though Dudgeon resigns himself to impending death, Anderson's wife, Judith (Tawny Hamilton), has fallen in love with him and begs his captors to spare the noose.

Working in Occidental's Hillside Amphitheater, director Christopher Shelton assembles the production details in a well-integrated fashion. Christa Bartels' wooden set is both handsome and supremely functional, and lighting designer Trevor Norton deftly overcomes the challenges of illuminating an outdoor space.

The performances are equally flawless. Angell's tongue-in-cheek turn as Dudgeon sparkles. But the biggest ovation is saved for Tom Shelton, who delivers a sublimely world-weary twist to the ironic and literate British Gen. Burgoyne.

* "The Devil's Disciple," Hillside Amphitheater, Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles. Today, Thursday, Aug. 13, 16 and 25, 8 p.m. Ends Aug. 25. $14-$18. (213) 259-2922. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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