Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Faust for All Tastes and Time

Heinz-Uwe Haus has created a very lively Faust Part I by Johann Wolfgang Goethe and made it both faithful to the original, yet modern in its conception. Man’s asking for more and yielding to temptation is not a time-bound issue. The modern flying and pyrotechnics and magic are only possible in our time, yet how well they are welded to the phantasmagoric effects Goethe had described in his story.
Mic Matarrese as Mephisto

Goethe had developed his Mephisto (Mephistopheles is the name Goethe used which is a badly constructed Greek word intended to mean one who shuns light) as a full-bodied character with emotions and impatience and a deep respect for the Lord whom he considers to be a worthy colleague. And Mic Matarrese (Mephisto) does not disappoint as he wheedles and befriends and convinces and conquers and provides that glorious mix of impatience, charm, and magic which our poor Dr. Faust swallows hook line and sinker.

Faust (Stephen Pelinski) creates a smooth transformation from the dried-up and world-weary professor to the hungry and rejuvenated fool whose appetite for carnal and other delights is whetted by Mephisto’s tricks and promises. Pelinski’s Faust is a cynic whose slow yielding to temptation has a beautifully gradual unveiling. His fascination with Margarete is complex, and he shows that complexity as he struggles with his lust and his love. Margarete/Gretchen (Sara J. Griffin) also makes her character more than just a girl who is duped – she goes through the transformation from lonely cherub to fallen angel slowly and painfully – starting with the joy of love and innocence and falling into sin without losing her unblemished spirit.

The tale is most beautifully told in verse created by Dr. Haus from his own translations and selected public domain translations, and translations by two unidentified UD scholars. The musical interludes are so seamlessly inserted by Ryan Touhey’s keyboard and percussion that it seemed the music was coming from the performers on stage. Mic Matarrese’s perfect gestures as he pulled music out of his walking stick or played the guitar are quite convincing. I will protect the secrets of the pyrotechnics by telling you Celebration Fireworks knows what they are doing and I must compliment FOY and the fearlessness of Elizabeth Heflin as the flying witch, Lee Ernst as the Lord hovering in heaven and Matarrese’s Mephisto buzzing in the rafters of the church.

Credit is due for special effects (hats off to Waldo Warshaw) but I can’t spoil your fun by telling you what they are. You will know when you see the bar scene with Mephisto, Faust and some lively drunken singers. The costumes are quite striking and the transitions as characters change, transform and transmogrify deserve a hand as well. The play runs until March 23, 2014.


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