Devil May Care

Classically trained actor Joshua Kane must have sold his soul for his voice: It's a booming, heart-stopping theatrical instrument, even over the phone from New York. And it's not like Kane and Beelzebub are complete strangers. One of Kane's one-man stage shows, Date With the Devil, recalls "the many voices of Satan, from Mark Twain to Milton," and his acclaimed show Gothic at Midnight, eight years on the road and coming this weekend to the Arvada Center, draws from the writings of some of Kane's favorite Goths: Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Ambrose Bierce and George Bernard Shaw.

The regional premiere, just in time for Halloween, has its priorities in all the right places, season-wise. But, Kane cautions, "This is not a typical white-bread evening of theater," ghoulish or otherwise. He performs it year-round, charming audiences everywhere with interactive banter and a fierce refusal to get stuck in a rut. In essence, he pulls an Orson Welles with the material, invoking the in-the-moment feel of vaudeville and radio drama, then electrifying it with pure love for the genre, something he picked up early in life.

"I've always had a strong relationship with horror," Kane notes, from the time his grandfather gave him a volume of the works of Poe and he retreated to the attic to read it from cover to cover in one sitting. "These stories are like the anvil to test one's own mettle against. It had a profound influence on my life and a lot to do with how I've shaped my life and destiny." And a certain kind of literature has, indeed, carved his niche: "Poe and Dickens are both grand passions; I also have a strong sentimentality for Ambrose Bierce, or 'Bitter Bierce,' as he was known. Anyone who could write The Devil's Dictionary is a man after my own heart. It's how I intend to teach the ABCs to my child."

With that in mind, the one-man-show format is a pure no-brainer for Kane. "Like Shakepeare's Bottom, I like to play all the parts," he says, though he sometimes misses being part of a cast. "The tradeoff is the interaction I gain from the audience and how it shapes each show." Every show is different, he notes, and even his technical director doesn't always know what lines Kane will be pulling out of his vast hat of material. "I read, researched and collected 600 different stories, which I then winnowed down to 20 or 25 in my core repertoire. At Arvada, I promise several pieces not heard anywhere else," he adds, without getting specific. "There'll be some deliciously wicked, witty poems I'll be inserting."

Kane also performs a kids' version of the show, though he vehemently insists it's not a kids' version at all. "I would never water down the wine," he avows. "Especially when they come so thirsty to drink." Recommended for youngsters in grades six through twelve, the young peoples' matinees are simply abbreviated down to an hour, and he's certain that particular audience can take every macabre item he dishes up. He calls the Harry Potter crowd "the most honest audience you'll find" -- and surreptitiously adds, "I personally have the heart of a small child -- that I keep in a box on my desk."

Regardless of the average age of its members, what can Kane's audiences expect? "A roller coaster ride!" he declares. "Each new level we take you up to, you'll plummet from," he says, noting that he subscribes to pure Hitchcockian theory: "Only by going up step by step can you take your audience to the highest pinnacle." It's also an extremely humorous evening, according to Kane, who hints that mayhem might follow his performances: "In Arvada, the crime rate there will go up significantly: There will be acts of arson, over sixty cases of murder...and, after all, what season could be scarier than election time?" Good point. We'll vote for that!

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd