Monday, September 28, 2009

Mephistopheles Leaves Through Another Door; “An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This, His Final Evening”, Theater Oobleck, 09/26/09

No epigram this time, I think the title of the play took up more than enough space, suffice to say I was in Chicago for a friend’s wedding and looking for some theater.  The Michael Shannon play was tempting, so was the Arthur Conan Doyle thing at Steppenwolf, but the early write-up of this promised just the kind of high=minded literariness and wackiness that I couldn't resist.

We all filed into two long rows of chairs on either side of the basement of the Chopin Theater, one man sitting at a chair on one end and another standing nervously, who then walks to the lounge we filed in from and pulls a heavy door shut so we’re in a dark room lit only by two globe lights and an Exit sign.  And we’re off.

For the next hour, Colm O’Reilly as John Faustus sweats and stammers his way through boastful justification and not-quite-belied regret, through flights of visual fancy, from Sisyphus tracing hash marks on the rock in mud until the mass is mostly the shell of keeping time to a world pouring out of the hump on the devil’s back like a piñata.  

Faustus works to get us on his side, but through it all, you get the impression that what he most wants is to evoke a reaction – something, anything – from Mephistopheles (David Shapiro) who holds all the cards and has nothing to gain or lose by giving in.  Shapiro is riveting in a role with one action and no lines, but it’s O’Reilly who keeps making you laugh (“I return with future beer and potatoes!” “I am a very annoyed person!”) and bringing you to tears with the wasted efforts and barely submerged regrets. 

Mickel Maher’s text is a wonder and by the time Mephistopheles turns off the lights and leaves through the other door you’re completely taken up.  Runs through October 24 at the Chopin Theater in Chicago.


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