Houston-based playwright Elizabeth Keel channels the mystical charms of magical realism and sex demons in her most recent production, Cherry Muffins: A Demon Play, running thru March 19 at the Obsidian Theatre in the Heights.
Cherry Muffins tells the story of protagonist Lorelair, a woman from an extensive lineage of ancient sex demons, who breaks away from the family business to open her own coffee shop in the mortal world. Unbeknownst to Lorelair, her sex demon siblings rise from Hell to spy on her as they seek to bring her back down to their realm.
A play about otherworldly universes might seem rather taboo and outlandish, but Cherry Muffins is in line with Keel’s interest in enchanting motifs. The writer has previously penned stories that comprise of unicorns and psychics—so a production of this capacity is not incredibly farfetched.
“When people hear that the play is about sex demons, eyebrows tend to go right up,” Keel says. “But it really is a heartwarming story about family and friendship.
Keel delved into mythological research and drew from her own family relationships when developing the play. While brainstorming plot ideas in Montrose’s Siphon coffee shop, Keel was suddenly inspired by the sibling dynamic within her family. And since fantastical creatures and concepts have always piqued Keel's interests, crafting a play with demonic components came naturally for her.
“I was raised Catholic, so I’ve always found it to be rich fodder for my imagination,” Keel jokes.
As part of her research, Keel poured through eerie, cryptic tomes and old collections of demonic histories. With all her findings, she created “an amalgamation of different theories” that make up the Cherry Muffins world.
Not only is Keel the solitary scribe of Cherry Muffins, but she is also calling the shots as the play’s director. Directing her own production allows Keel the autonomy to switch up stage directions and change lines in the script as she, as well as the cast and crew, see fit.
Given the mystical nature of Cherry Muffins, Keel wanted the play to be more “magical than gratuitous.” Along with the stage’s use of darkness and sound effects, the audience relies on their own imagination to flesh out a lot of Keel’s dominion of sex demons and Hell.
Despite the obvious perks of having a greater part in the overall creative vision, being the director also came with some challenges.
“There are moments where I want it to be funny, or I want it to be serious or sensual—having the script change in tone and changing it back again was the thing I was stressed about the most,” Keel says.
To further set the tone of the play, Keel includes volunteers, aptly referred to as “sex-tras,” for crowd scenes where sex demons will have a profound affect on the main characters. Not to mention, there will also be dance numbers performed to original musical compositions, and the audience is encouraged to get up and dance during curtain call.
With the audience’s imagination being an integral role of the whole experience, Keel hopes that not only will those who see the play thoroughly delight in the show’s kitsch and eccentricity, but they also will find comfort in their own sexuality and individuality.
“I hope that their abdomens are a little sore from laughing,” Keel explains. “I want them to laugh at sex. We stress about it so much. But really, when it comes from a loving place, it’s fun. It doesn’t matter what you are into, you just want to be happy.”
Thru March 19. $15. Obsidian Theatre, 3522 White Oak Dr. 832-889-7837. obsidiantheater.org