The Trials and Tribulations of Staggerlee Booker T. Brown

Rated 3.0 This African-American comedy about beating the devil begins in a bar; segues into a church; takes a short, sexy side trip through a bedroom; and ends up in court. Well, actually, we return to the bar, but it becomes a courtroom. Sorta.Procedurally, the play is a matter of two superimposed story lines and double casting. We start in the bar, amid pickups and intoxication. The scene coalesces around a woozy barfly (Kwesiu Jones) whose eyes won’t focus. He weaves on rubbery knees, trying to cadge a drink by relating the outlandish tale of Staggerlee Booker T. Brown—and here we shift to the other story.

Staggerlee (a vigorous Brandon Rubin) was a cocky hell-raiser in his youth, but we meet him as a penniless, hobbling old pastor, nearly crippled by arthritis. But he privately admits that he’s still got lust in his heart for a pretty young parishioner named Polly.

A minion of the devil (Larry Lew, with a knowing squint and a false smile) immediately materializes, offering Staggerlee renewed youth, money and the girl. The old reverend signs the contract but refuses to go along peaceably when the minion comes back to collect. A kangaroo-court episode ensues, and Elise Reese lands several good lines as witness/stenographer Bertha Butt.

Director Lawrence Rehrer and his cast of community actors hit the funny bone in several scenes, but the numerous set changes are overly long and dissipate the momentum. Playwright Don Evans also gets his tongue stuck in his cheek at times. This unpretentious little production isn’t everything it could be, but it’s such a likable effort that you’ll end up enjoying it.