Me, the Devil and Other Friends, BackStage Theatre Company, at the Cornelia Arts Building. In Fannon Holland's new play, hell is a bar where the patrons are actors and the barkeep is the devil. Constantly auditioning, the customers get roles that are supposed to help illuminate their lives on earth. So it is for Dude (Dan Wolfe), an "average white guy" in his late 20s content to drift through the play of his life repeating the same mistakes over and over. He sells drugs, gambles with borrowed money, and spends most of his time at the Dive with his high school buddies Father (John Wilson), a hard-drinking priest, and the comic drug-dealing duo Mack (Garrett Wilson) and Mick (Mark Christopher). Dude's nonchoices lead to tragedy for his girlfriend (Alexis Klossner) and one of his friends, but he learns nothing.
Holland's ambitious, witty play slyly targets everything from the opinions whites and blacks have about each other to sexism to gun violence to atheism, and the playwright quotes multitudes, including Shakespeare, the Eagles, and Welcome Back, Kotter. But occasionally the cleverness gets out of hand: Holland's philosophical riffs and eclectic approach (the cast sings a song and recites poetry) could use some pruning in order to keep the narrative moving. Under the direction of Melissa Ann Young, the bright multicultural ensemble deliver the script's ribald banter as easily and comfortably as if they were all really high school pals.