Wanted: A Character to Play the Devil

There’s an old Hollywood story about the theatrical roles Orson Welles considered the best. Welles once played a theatrical character called Dr. Wu. The other characters in the play spent the whole first act discussing how brilliant Dr. Wu was, how mysterious, how fantastic. The build-up of anticipation was so great that, at the end of the first act, when a figure appears on the stage and everyone exclaims “Dr. Wu!” the audience was nearly in hysterics. Everyone goes out for a smoke during intermission and says, “Isn’t that guy playing Dr. Wu great?”

Of course, the joke is that Dr. Wu hasn’t done anything to deserve his praise. Welles most famously ran the Dr. Wu gambit in the film The Third Man. Anyone remember that movie? If you do, you’ll remember one scene. The cuckoo clock scene. Despite a more than two hour running time, and Welles only appearing in this one scene for any length of time, it IS the movie. Everything else is window dressing.

Though not done to the same degree, the same delayed gratification takes place in The Witches of Eastwick. The male lead, Darryl Van Horne is talked about from the first page. Only after a good couple hours of reading about him do we get to meet him. And what kind of man is he?

…a bearish dark man with greasy curly hair half-hiding his ears…

…He wore gray flannels bagged at the back of his knees somehow…

…incongruously small and pointy black loafers.

Now, among a coven of witches, what kind of gentleman would we expect to call that hides the shape of his ears, has great heaps of curly hair, pants that would fit a satyr, and shoes small enough to encase a hoof?


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