Milling goes on in the Alchemist’s cozy Bay View Lounge before the show, tension in the air? Maybe. Tonight Faust: A Night at the Mephisto Theatre opens. Aaron Koepec’s latest opus, an undertaking certainly. Using the infamous “e” word would belittle the production. Groundbreaking? No not quite the connotation to apply, although the show does reveal the extent to which a production’s content can challenge audiences’ sensibilities.
Something keeps taking me to that scene from Time Bandits where that animated bald head chases real people down a hall way and they dive through a wall to a whole different dimension and you say “What!?” Until that point, my young eyes had never seen anything like it in special effects.
Only Boring People are Bored
The Alchemist’s Faust counts on the audiences’ willingness to move around and follow an abstract story line that takes place in different settings staged throughout the theater space. Third Coast Digest provides a good synopsis of Faust, a few additional notes should be taken with you.
Entering the show with a stationary spectator’s mentality will leave you dissatisfied, as well as being claustrophobic, socially awkward or immature. It’s an actor’s play, in the same way George Clooney is a man’s man. Actively following characters through the show and receiving limited instructions about reconciling missing information in the story in real-time, presents real life challenges to the audience both physically and psychologically that actors tend to embrace naturally.
As an audience member that is a part of the actors world but not in it, one can have a lot of fun with Faust just taking the “fly-on-the-wall” approach to social situations. Audience members are provided a masquerade to assist in this transformation, sorry no teleporter machines created by Seth Brundle to help you out.
The sets mimic five primary locations: a bedroom, a parlor room, a movie house, an alleyway, and a church. Neutral semi-scenes take place in the lounge and theater space proper where audience members can take a break if the story becomes to intense. In the lounge, Prohibition era crooners give ambiance for libations. In the theater, Sammy Dittloff and Beth Lewinski mock Faust in a radio show themed series of skits.
Burning Moral Coals
Alchemist’s Faust dabbles in the degenerate and absurd. In the play, the lead actor of the Mephisto Theatre tries his darndest to keep the acting stable committed to the Theatre’s operation, but the forces of doubt, temptation and greed manifest and the meek-minded receive nurturing from the devil himself. A German aristocrat investor further enables the devil’s deviance and lures other characters into lurid circumstances. The dark forces personified in the play gnaw at the veil of civility and quaintness that shrouds everyday life and eventually tears it down. By the end, no character escapes complicity in the devil’s frolics.
Dissuading Viewer Regression
Scenes reach a fever pitch amongst the players at certain points in the production, and adult situations do occur. Most great acts of art take risks without abandon. The Alchemist’s Faust makes no exceptions. Take this play in with a dirty martini and civilly-rogue attitude.
Faust: A Night at the Mephisto Theatre still had tickets for tonight’s show (10/7) last I checked, but the rest of this weekend is sold out. The show runs Thursday through Saturday until October 29th.
The players of Faust are Libby Amato, Randall Anderson, Grace DeWolff, Sarah Dill, Sammich Dittloff, Anna Figlesthaler, Joe Foti, Melissa Freson, Lindsay Gagliano, Erin Hartman, Beth Lewinski, Gracie Liebenstein, Rob Maass, Laura Meyer, Sharon Nieman-Koebert, Mike O’Toole, Rebecca Segal, Amber Smith, Lineve Thurman, Liz Whitford, Gwen Zupan.