The Devil Is in the Details in the Latest by Houston Playwright Elizabeth A.M. Keel

Cone Man Running Productions presents Cherry Muffins: A Demon Play at Obsidian Theater.
Cone Man Running Productions presents Cherry Muffins: A Demon Play at Obsidian Theater.
Photo by Christine Weems

Instead of a mermaid the heroine is a girl sex demon, and rather than emerging from the ocean to be on land with the man she loves, the succubus rises up from the depths of hell to open a coffee shop. Any similarities between The Little Mermaid and the latest from local playwright Elizabeth A.M. Keel pretty much end there, as Cherry Muffins: A Demon Play goes off the rails with promiscuity, dance numbers and caffeine-infused chaos.

Cherry Muffins is my first farce in a long time,” says Keel, who has written about a dozen plays for Houston audiences. “I [once] wrote about a woman who fought in the American Revolution. I wrote a sci-fi piece where people used emotions like weapons, [and] I wrote about two sisters who went to a magical kingdom with unicorns.”

For the world premiere of Cherry Muffins, a full-length two-act play, Keel has incorporated comedy, dance numbers, original compositions (with lyrics by Keel and music by Greg Cote) and live music. “The main story is there is a succubus, which is a girl sex demon, who breaks 'the big rule' and falls in love with a mortal man,” says Keel. “So she moves to Houston and opens up a coffee shop to be closer to him.”

Things start to go awry when her brother and sister (also demons) come up to see what she's doing and follow their diabolical instincts by seducing and sleeping with all of her baristas and causing “quite a bit of havoc,” says Keel. “It's a comedy about family, but not a family comedy.”

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There isn't any nudity; Keel says that the play is a “PG-13 rating with implied R,” but that it should be fine for teenagers and adults. “It's tasteful and fun.”

It might not be a family comedy, but there are a lot of familiar connections among the cast and crew. Her composer (Cote) is her collaborator, but they're also boyfriend and girlfriend; we've seen him recently in Love and Information and A Christmas Carol. Keel, who also is directing Cherry Muffins for Cone Man Running Productions, knows some of the cast members from her performance in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress (Margaret Lewis and Nikki Wuertz).

Cone Man Running Productions presents Cherry Muffins: A Demon Play at Obsidian Theater.
Cone Man Running Productions presents Cherry Muffins: A Demon Play at Obsidian Theater.
Photo by Christine Weems

“There are nine people in the cast, and then we have a chorus of – I call them my sextras – for crowd scenes. It's quite a few people,” says Keel. The heroine sex demon (Loreliar) is played by Melissa Molano (Dollhouse, The Book of Maggie), and her devilish siblings are played by Katherine Cunningham (Rocky Horror Picture Show, A Few Good Men, Boeing Boeing, 9 to 5) and Cameron Dunbar (Mildred's Umbrella's Museum of Dysfunction VI). The cast includes Laura Moreno (All My Sons, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Lindsey Ball (All in the Timing), Williams Sanders (Romeo and Juliet) and Elizabeth Red (The Psychic Palace at 14 Pews, also written by Keel).

Don't expect the aroma of java to be pumped into the theater, but Keel says that they're planning to serve coffee at intermission, and that it should be a good night out on the town. “You're going to leave feeling great,” she says.

Performances of  Cherry Muffins: A Demon Play are scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays, March 10-19, at Obsidian Theater, 3522 White Oak, 281-972-5897 or conemanrunning.com. $15.


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