MAN OF INFINITE DESIRE
nytheatre.com review by Paul Hagen
A brick, partially transmuted into gold;
an egg that is Helen of Troy; an origami swan; an alarm clock; a tarot
card; a handkerchief wet with the sweat of Satan: these are the
souvenirs Mephistopheles (Christina Nicosia) reveals as he spins this
one-woman tale of Dr. Faustus. Rich, dense language abounds throughout,
but paradox is at the center of Man of Infinite Desire.
Mephistopheles claims, "I am literary symbolism," even as he warns of
"the danger of mixing metaphors." Language is heaped upon language; at
times Latin, German, French and English are spoken in a single breath.
The play mocks the treatment Goethe and Marlowe gave to the tale of Dr.
Faustus, but then recreates the ritualistic incantation Dr. Faustus used
to call Mephistopheles, only to then dismiss it, saying "But you can say
almost anything and I'll show up."
August 15, 2002
Nicosia also transforms into the hungry Dr. Faustus, innocent young Gretchen, and the coquettish Marthe. But in his glittering red robe, she holds court as Mephistopheles: prestidigitator, storyteller, puppeteer: a creature incapable of wanting, who desires nothing more than desire. Nicosia (who also wrote the piece) explores the paradox through a complex network of symbols, presenting us with a corpse: "This is not an ending. This is not an end. This is not even a means to an end." The corpse becomes a puppet and then a mask and costume, as Mephistopheles wholly transforms into Gretchen, who then gives birth to Mephistopheles again. Characters become others as easily as lead is transmuted into gold, German becomes English, and even the audience is invited to "embody embodiment," to become symbols ourselves.
Eric Green's sound design creates an atmosphere of a European circus sideshow. Jonathan Van Gieson's direction challenges the audience to keep apace with Nicosia's physical and verbal acrobatics. Complex as a puzzle yet also as simply delightful as a magician pulling a coin from your ear, Man of Infinite Desire calls to you like a ringmaster to watch your own preconceptions of life, death, hell and desire appear on the high wire. Answer the call.