The fun in Youngblood Theatre Company's production of "An Apology For The Course And Outcome Of Certain Events Delivered By Doctor John Faustus On This His Final Ending" is in its dashing of expectations and its exploitation of opposites.
The title is so long and the play is so short – 55 minutes. The venue is spectacularly solid and real – a stately but underheated vacant old warehouse space in the Pritzlaff Building Downtown. The text is abstract, expressionistic and a bit convoluted.
A theatergoer must dig deep and concentrate hard to find nuggets of meaning.
Most of us think of the Faustus legend as a flesh and ego driven bargain with the Devil. You give me 24 years of ultimate knowledge, power and pleasure, and I will give you my soul for eternity. But this Faustus is an ascetic.
Youngblood artistic director Michael Cotey has shaved his head and donned a drab gray suit, white shirt and skinny black tie to portray the doctor. There are no juicy reports of fantasies fulfilled here. It is impossible to calculate whether we would be tempted by a similar offer from the Devil.
Even the great force of evil himself doesn't know how Faustus fared because the doctor filled his diary with meaningless hash marks.
The play is a monologue delivered by Faustus in his final hour of life while a robed and cloaked Mephistopheles, the prince of devils, silently gazes at him. Rich Gillard's unnerving stare, delivered with expressionless intensity, illustrates how powerful presence alone can be on a stage.
Faustus is not a compelling character in the play, which was written by Mickle Maher, but Cotey holds our attention by smoothly transitioning among annoyance, anger, playfulness and nostalgia.
The Pritzlaff venue provides the ultimate device for the piece's final moment. As his life ends, Faustus boards a large freight elevator at the center of the performance space and pushes the down button.
Edward Morgan directed.
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