A real femme fatale sparks Zimmerman’s one-act entry ‘The Devil and Danielle Webster’

Cassie Heyer as "Lucy" talks young Jake, played by Kyler Preston, into signing a "contract" that will grant him wisdom and success, but with a catch. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

Cassie Heyer insists that she’s a goody-goody in real life but you couldn’t tell from her deliciously devilish performance in Zimmerman’s one-act play entrant, “The Devil and Danielle Webster.”

“It’s a blast playing someone evil,” said the ZHS senior. “My friends all think I’m this nice little girl. When I saw that the role was supposed to be ‘seductive and evil,’ I know what I wanted to do with it.”

Gov. Jake Scott, played by Nick Judnitch, needs the help of lawyer Danielle Webster, played by Sylvia Michels, and needs it bad. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

The play, directed by Jon Palshewski, was well-received at the Mississippi 8 festival on Saturday in Cambridge and again at the local showing at ZHS on Monday evening.

Their sub-section competition is slated for Saturday, Jan. 29, at Pine City, beginning 9 a.m. Zimmerman will be up at 11:20 a.m. The top two plays there advance to sectionals Feb. 5 at St. Paul Harding.

Heyer plays the devil in thick mascara and a slinky black dress.

“I watched the movie ‘Bedazzled’ and made my own version of it,” she said.

Her lady lucifer (“call my Lucy”)  approaches a young loser played sophomore newcomer Kyler Preston who keeps getting fired from bottom-rung jobs. Overwhelmingly persuasive, she signs him up for seven years of wisdom and boundless success, the little catch being that he has to turn over his soul at that point.

“You’re not really using it anyway, are you?” she coos, before he eagerly signs the contract.

The jury called together by "Lucy" appears tough to convince. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

The signee morphs into an expert on all subjects as soon as Lucy departs, helping anyone and every solve their problems, then moves on to become rock star and later the adored and virtuous governor of the state.

The heart-throb of a governor is played Nick Judnitch, who, as the story opens, is deeply troubled as his contract is about to come due, so he is imploring contract specialist attorney Danielle Webster, played by Sylvia Michels, to somehow get him out of the deal.

The skeptical lawyer tells the governor he needs a shrink, not a lawyer. But then, speak of the devil, Heyer’s Lucy struts into the office waving the contract around, and Webster knows she’s got a fight on her hands.

Lucy, informed by Webster that under U.S. law there must be an American judge and jury, cleverly lines up a judge from  the Salem Witch Trials, played by senior Josh Weber, along with a jury of six goons straight from Hades including murderers, thieves and couple IRS agents. So it’s all stacked in Lucy’s favor, but Webster somehow sways the jury in the governor’s favor.

“It’s a thought provoking piece with both humorous and serious tones,” said Palshewski.  “The students are doing a geat job.”

While the devil and the lawyer are usually males — the play is, of course, adapted from Stephen Vincent Benet’s short story “The Devil and Dan Webster” — Palshewski chose two talented females, veterans of the ZHS stage, for the roles.

Heyer gets the coolest lines, like “Don’t make me barf — it’s not pretty” and “Let’s go, Gorgeous, and raise some hell” and nails them for good laughs.

Michels handles with aplomb a demanding role including long lawyerly courtroom dissertations.

“I watched a lot of Law and Order,” she laughed, asked how she prepped for the role. “It was a little intimidating — to look at the script and see your line is a whole page!”

At the Mississippi 8 festival, Michels and Autumn Rasmussen were chosen for all-conference and Heyer got honorable mention. Rasmussen plays the lawyer’s impressionable young clerk who swoons over the governor and trembles at the introduction of the freaky jury.

The Monday evening hometown showing went smoothly, with everyone on top of their lines.

“We want to be the first time Zimmerman has moved on to the state,” said Michels.

The cast also includes Megan Jacobson, Megan Brueske, Bailey Lore, Katie Halter, Breanna Lassere, Kileen Ewy, and Kasey Bullock. Assistant director is Carisa Halter. The crew includes Jessica Parnow, Crystal Paukner, Samantha Philp, Ethan Loitz, and Connor Nelson.

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