Bruce Graham’s “Minor Demons” is so issue-fraught, offering such a bevy of angst-inspiring conflicts, that the audience has difficulty connecting with them. The piece isn’t inaccessible, but viewers are forced into an objective stance. A simpler human drama might have proven a more memorable, subjective experience.
The story centers around two lifelong friends, a high-profile criminal attorney, Deke (Al Sapienza), and the town’s chief of police, Vince (Blaise Messinger).
Deke, a substance abuser in recovery (Conflict No. 1: inner demons of central character’s past), has returned to his hometown seeking anonymity and serenity.
He’s also looking for a position in the local law firm, where he goes toe to toe with a castrating lawyer (Conflict No. 2: man vs. upwardly mobile woman), Diane (Cheri Caspari), who eventually, predictably becomes his lover.
A heinous crime involving the sexual abuse and death of a 13-year-old girl by her imbalanced schoolmate Kenny (Arnie Starkie) ends up in the hands of Deke, who uncovers the fact that the boy’s rights weren’t read before the youth confessed (Conflict No. 3: whether to ignore the impropriety or bring it to light, even though it will ruin Vince’s career and free a certain psychologically diseased killer).
The cast performs unevenly, with Messinger the clear front-runner, showing great range and emotional diversity as the police chief. As Vince’s cut-to-the-chase wife, Petrea Burchard performs with a natural freshness and unaffected honesty. David Hayman conveys hurt and a desire to be left in solitude, giving meat to the underwritten role of the dead girl’s father.
Less successful is Sapienza as the tormented Deke. Though occasionally charismatic, he creates his role for its “moments,” neglecting a sense of fluidity.
Actress/producer Caspari does little to assist him in exorcising his demons, as she chooses a self-centered approach to her character, which makes her vulnerability seem unbelievable later.
Starkey’s understated take on Kenny produces a quiet potential for violence that’s chillingly effective, but his role shows no development.
Carrying on the family’s propensity toward superficiality, Elkanah Burns and Kathleen Marie Archer play Kenny’s parents as a brute and a neurotic — and that’s about as far as they go.
Since character underdevelopment and a general lack of focus riddle the play throughout, Louis D’Esposito’s diffused direction must be examined. But the shortcoming doesn’t prove fatal, thanks to his quick pacing and moments of inspired performance from the cast.
Brad Priby’s lighting design and Thomas Rinker’s sound succeed. But Matthew Johnson’s nightmarish swirls painted on the Alliance’s back wall, resembling a Van Goghesque sky, add little to the neutrality necessary for the multitude of locations.