nytheatre.com review by Garry Schrader
August 13, 2006
FAUST is called FAUST on my ticket stub, FaustNYC on my postcard, and The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus on my program. Who's in charge here? The program lists no director. Could it be...Satan? No, the FringeNYC website says it's Josh Allen. One of the actors has similarly chosen not to be identified: Satan? Well, yes. Lucifer is apparently played by "Himself." [Editor's Note: the actor's real name is Johan Backstrom.]
This FAUST is kind of a mess. It is for the most part a straightforward if undercooked production of Christopher Marlowe's play—about an erudite professor who sells his soul to the devil, trading the life of the mind for supernatural power—but now and then it pauses for an audiovisual display: solarized footage of urban grit in one sequence, quickly edited shots of modern exemplars of the seven deadly sins in another, both underscored to a hip-hop soundtrack. These interludes all appear in the first half of the play, then disappear, and nothing else in the production displays an effort to modernize, or urbanize, Marlowe. We appear to be witnessing the beginning stages of a potentially interesting concept, but it is woefully undeveloped.
The actors are game and, given their apparent inexperience (there are no bios in the program), handle the language rather well. Among them, Reginald Burch is a suave if listless Mephistopheles, and Justin Restivo has an amusing haughtiness that he puts to good use as the Pope, and then again as the Empress. The problem with his Pope's ad-libbed "Oy vey!" isn't so much that it diverges from Marlowe as that it's the only moment that does. As Faustus, Shawn Harrison is earnest and rises well to the climactic moments.
The actors are clearly having fun in the sequence in which an invisible Faustus torments the Pope, but, in general, to call the staging rudimentary is kind. And nothing that is wrong with this production wouldn't be made much better if the actors were simply encouraged to pick up the pace, and eliminate the frequent lengthy pauses between lines.
Did you know the phrase "Misery loves company" comes from Marlowe's play? This FAUST is two hours, without an intermission.