Theatre Preview: The devil in a rabbit suit

By Rebecca Pfliger

With a penchant for the weird and armed with their unique sound, the Plaid Tongued Devils seem to constantly play with fire. At any moment, they could fall too far into the absurd and leave audiences scratching their head. But the band always manages to walk the fine line and welcome new converts to their fold. Take, for example, One Yellow Rabbit’s latest production, In Klezskavania, written by the group. The Devil and an evil baron fall for a bawdy exotic dancer who’s looking for a special kind of satisfaction. All she wants is a man to treat her rough and give great sex. Things become more complicated, though, when we learn the Devil can’t touch a maiden and a faceless hunchback seeks revenge. All this set to the klezmer rock sound the Devils are known for.

Originally performed in 1998, One Yellow Rabbit has brought this popular rock opera back to their stage. Originally written by Ty Semaka, the Devils’ lead vocalist and lyricist, In Klezskavania quickly became the most successful show to hit the One Yellow Rabbit stage.

“I didn’t realize what an opportunity it was,” says Semaka, when describing the horror of handing off his script to be edited by OYR. “Little did I know what good hands it was in.”

During the play’s debut, it delighted critics and audiences alike with its hilariously dark wit and party atmosphere. Creating a distinctly high energy show, it has allowed the Plaid Tongued Devils to expand beyond their typical realm of performance. Both Semaka and OYR are thrilled to have the rock opera return to Calgary.

“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” remarks Semaka. “I met my wife during the first run. It’s pretty romantic to be doing the play together again. We’re up in the dressing room making moony eyes at each other.”

Not content to simply rest on their laurels, the newest incarnation of In Klezskavania is not merely a retread of pass successes. The show has undergone some changes since the original run with an additional two characters and a couple of songs swapped out.

“A lot of humour has gotten darker,” explains Semaka. “There’s some taboo subjects touched on. You almost have to see the play three times to catch all the jokes.”

Unwilling to relax and enjoy being back In Kezskavania, the Plaid Tongued Devils are also gearing up for the release of their fifth album, Monsteroma. Concocting an unusual mix of ska, kelzmer and gypsy rock, the album offers listeners more than the usual. Concert attendees find it hard not to get out of their seats to dance. Monsteroma follows in the same direction as the last album, and sounds even better.

“Half of the album is fun and bouncy and the other half is more complicated, more art rock. It’s a good balance,” says Semaka.

The band won’t have too much time to enjoy their success. They head to Holland, where the Canadian Embassy has invited the Devils to perform at the 60th Annual Liberation Day Festival for a crowd of 10,000.

After five albums, one DVD and the second run of their hit opera, The Plaid Tongued Devils are unstoppable at this point in their 14-year career. The fans show no signs of ending their love for the klezmer ska band and the Devils show no signs of slowing down. The Devil be damned.

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