I Just Stopped By to See the Man

An intellectual turn-on about music, talent, and the devil's hand in both

Rock 'n' roll comes from the blues, which has commonly been called "the devil's music," and according to playwright Stephen Jeffreys — who penned the movie The Libertine, starring Johnny Depp — it actually is. The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre's new version of Jeffreys' show explores the mythology surrounding the mysterious crossroads at which certain musicians get their talent in an exchange with the Prince of Darkness himself. (Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, and Robert Johnson all reference this place in their lyrics.) Onstage the soulful Charles Branklyn portrays Jesse Davidson, a beat-down, in-hiding blues legend who hasn't picked up his guitar in 14 years, letting the world presume he's dead. Peter Sroka is Karl, the excessive, Jaggerlike rock star who's made millions covering Davidson's songs. When these two meet down in the Mississippi Delta in a shotgun shack — a marvelous creation by set designer Lisa Clark — they find themselves at the crossroads. What ensues is a thrilling if bloated debate about real blues, rock stardom, and the price a musician pays for his gift. Despite the leisurely pace and a somewhat superfluous side plot involving Davidson's daughter (Natasha Noel), director Stanley E. Williams' production is an intellectual turn-on that rivals any night rocking out at the Fillmore.

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