A modern take on religious or mythic stories? Of course I’ll check it out!
Night Canopy Theatre’s Ahunwar: The Devil’s Long Nap is based on Zoroastrianism, which anglophone pop culture has barely glanced. Kudos to the young company for exploring this.
Most members of the cast and crew are or were students of the University of Alberta drama program and/or the Citadel Theatre’s youth companies. The production looks great. It features a clever set and spot-on costumes by Ariadne Belle, and lighting and sound by Brayden Saunders that make you believe you’re a fly on a teenaged boy’s room instead of a theatre. The actors, Braden Butler and Christina Nguyen as Ahunwar and Nguyen as Jeh, have a vibe that reminded me of Lucifer and Mazikeen in the Vertigo Comics Lucifer series.
At the beginning of the play, the teen awakens as the young woman, Jeh, looks on. She tells him he’s been asleep for 3,000 years–not metaphorical years, actual years! It turns out that the boy is possessed by a demon named Ahunwar, who created demons like Jeh. However, Ahunwar abandoned his creations, leaving Jeh and other demons to battle the god Ohrmazd on their own. Jeh tried to talk him back into the fight, but he questions why, launching a play-long conversation about purpose and responsibility.
Inevitably, Ahunwar reveals that sex magick is a necessary part of his return to the fray. The virginal Jeh is skeptical and the resulting scene is kind of rapey. (Because I was reminded of comics, I thought of the scene in the 1999 comic Promethea, where Sophie has to have sex with a much older man to learn magic. People thought it was creepy back then, too.) It might have helped if the characters were more fully developed, or if the show commented on the trope.
Overall, the story is smothered by exposition. The characters speak much backstory, they don’t have room to breathe. The playbill notes that director Daniel Greenways and playwright Johan Dunch are both currently studying philosophy, so now I think of Ahunwar: The Devil’s Long Nap as a very slick production of a collection of philosophical dialogues interspersed with dramatic activity.
Tickets: https://tickets.fringe theatre.ca/performances.php?eventId=601:2146