Presented by I&E Productions
I was fully on-board for the concept of The Exorcist: An Operetta. It seems quintessentially Fringe—a seminal horror drama from the early 1970s, full of grotesque and vulgar scenarios, reimagined as light operetta. As a fan of both the film and outlandish theatrical ventures, my expectations were high.
Sadly, though, they were not met. Written and performed by Eli Pasic, the laid-back, lounge-act vibe didn’t thrill me. The promotional materials make the set-up clear, but that whimsical poster art (see above) still had me primed for an actual staging of outrageous shenanigans.
Pasic does have a certain panache. His facetious air of sophistication and pointed understatement is amusing enough. I don’t know him, so I feel at a complete loss for gauging the authenticity of this persona, but his delivery here is in a very affected Mid-Atlantic accent I wasn’t sure was just him or a choice.
From the get-go, something was off. Pasic’s official introduction is set to the iconic 20th Century Fox fanfare, but this frustrated me; it’s the wrong studio! Any hardcore fan of The Exorcist knows it’s a Warner Bros. release. Yeah, I’m that guy, I guess, because it irked me—inordinately so!
His performance proper opens with a few chilling bars of Tubular Bells, so yay for that. As our intrepid narrator, he leads us through the story which has a few pointed changes from the source. The mother, Chris MacNeil, is working on a stage play instead of a film. Daughter Regan is a little older and she has a boyfriend. Damien Karras is not an actual priest here, but a mediocre actor trying to weasel his way into a priest role in a play. It’s a whole thing.
Pasic explains that this project began as an in-joke amongst his peers. In full-length execution, it’s not nearly as quirky or extreme as its pitch. The central comic conceit—the dark and horrific events of the The Exorcist fused with Gilbert and Sullivan—has potential; hearing the demon-possessed girl proclaim “Your mother sucks cocks in hell” in a cheerful, plinky-plonky melody is fun, sure, but it gets old real quick.
There are a few great zingers and I chuckled a lot, but this is essentially a 15-minute gag stretched out to almost an hour and a half.