As for Kimbrough's speeches themselves, Schlam delivers these diatribes in such a quirky and overdone manner that the audience must pay more attention to his obtrusive acting technique than to revelations about his character. During their confrontation in the final scene, both Schlam and Walker manage to add a level of complexity to this already intriguing script. Their argument about Johnson's putative deal with the devil reaches a fever pitch, becoming a riddle of rhythm, madness, and reason as each man respectively allies himself with the literary and the legendary:
Kimbrough: "It's a metaphor."
M Ensemble goes down to the crossroads -- and makes a wrong turn
Johnson: "Metaphor my ass, it's the hellhound, fool."
Such charged moments, though, are disappointingly rare. Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil is a perfect work for M Ensemble, a company that consistently selects smart and challenging plays. The play is worth seeing for its humor and content, but the performances in this production can't elevate it to anywhere near the level of its title character's greatness.