The devil—or at least a devil, in the person of Edwin Strout—comes roaring out of the gate in David Mamet’s Bobby Gould in Hell, as produced by Joking Apart Theater at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Strout turns it to 11 and doesn’t let up, showboating and screaming and jabbing at the confused Bobby Gould (Michael Lee), who’s been consigned to eternal torment for reasons he doesn’t quite understand.
Strout is a powerhouse, and he’s surrounded by a cast that can keep up with him—especially Jen Maren, who plays the condemned’s lover, summoned to hell to speak to his character. She doesn’t speak well, but her own ethics are a little questionable too; in her indignant pique, she cows even the demon himself. Other performers who strut upon the Rarig Arena stage—very well-utilized by director Jean Wolff and set designer Scott Strand—include Strout’s whiskey-swilling assistant (Tina Frederickson) and…well, I don’t want to spoil any surprises.
The 1989 play, a sequel of sorts to Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, is not one of Mamet’s best—somehow, despite being only one act long, it manages to have several different endings—but Mamet is Mamet, and these performers put such fire into their fight that Bobby Gould in Hell must burn as many calories as any other Fringe show aside from the Bollywood dance productions. Both the material and the production are a notch above the typical Fringe show; if you’re looking for a sharp-elbowed show that will entertain you and keep you guessing, by all means, go straight to Hell.