Mary Testa and Jacob Hoffman in I'll Be Damned
(© Carol Rosegg)
Mary Testa and Jacob Hoffman in I'll Be Damned
(© Carol Rosegg)
In I'll Be Damned -- the unsalvageable musical Jaradoa Theater is producing at the Vineyard -- home-schooled and friendless Louis Foster (Jacob Hoffman) makes a pact with Satan (Kurt Robbins) in which he forfeits his soul Faust-like in exchange for a pal who "genuinely likes me for who I am."

It's a deal with which Louis' infantilizing Mom (Mary Testa) has little sympathy. Not that it matters much, since finding an understanding buddy proves to be harder than Satan imagines and therefore jeopardizes his desired return to heaven and God's grace -- since it all depends on the diabolical fellow's fulfilling his part of the contract.

The book has been cooked up by Rob Broadbent and Brent Black and includes remarks that go, "It felt like my stomach threw up all over my heart" and "This is lame sauce with a side of whack." The latter outburst comes from Joey (Anthony Martinez), one of the sullen teens who continually crop up in the action, refusing to befriend the importuning Louis unless a generous bribe is offered.

The annoyingly illogical story is draped with instantly evaporating songs, and It's a measure of this production's deficiency that even the enduringly marvelous Testa only occasionally lifts the gloomy mood by dint of inventive singing and line-readings.

As the late-adolescent Louis, Hoffman performs as if the character is 19-going-on-11. Moreover, he makes the patience-testing figure's friendless state totally believable. The agreeable Robbins can do little to render this confusingly changeable Satan credible, although Kenita R. Miller has some spunk as Friendetta, a cartoon personality Louis has created and Satan brings to life.