Composers and their stage works 

Demon Wine

Thomas Babe

First presented by the Los Angeles Theater Center, with Carol Kane, Tom Waits and Bud Cort (1989)

Jimmie, a salesman who loved his work, is thrown off balance when his job is "extirpated," and seeks solace in bourbon. Jimmie, who is full of self deluding swagger about his sense of dedication, and is, perhaps, not too bright, is grateful when his friend Curly offers him a job working for his father, Vinnie - even though his prospective employer turns out to be a loan-sharking mobster.

Put to work collecting debts and performing other unsavoury tasks, Jimmie, eager as ever to satisfy his boss, is eventually jailed on a murder rap, but bargains his way to freedom by agreeing (secretly) to inform on his associates. But as Jimmie moves up in the mob hierarchy, the more his anguish and longing for respectability increase, exacerbated by the defection of his friend Curly (who falls into disfavour with his father and takes a lowly job in a diner); the guilt he feels at murdering a derelict (a former friend who happened to owe money to Vinnie); and the disaffection of his daughter, Wanda (who loves to fish, but is always hooking on to painful and embarrassing truths).

Almost surreal in concept and execution, the play treats these sometimes chilling incidents in heightened, cartoon style, with characters being stabbed or thrown from rooftops only to-reappear later, and with Vinnie's henchmen synchronised in dress and gesture. But, in the end, the message of the play emerges with startling clarity; true morality, as opposed to the abstract notions droned from pulpits, is something which should infuse our lives on a daily basis, and within the confines of individual choice and responsibility.