Combining grand acting, dance, songs, and lots of video, Mabou Mines’ shimmering production of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s tale is a pleasing experience. Faust 2.0 is playwright Matthew Maguire’s faithful, inventive and passionate adaptation of Faust, Part II. Mr. Maguire’s fine writing contains sly humor, melancholy and a classical sensibility that melds well with the multimedia theatrics on display.
Faust is a depressed suicidal scholar who makes a bargain with the Devil’s agent Mephistopheles. In return for having his caprices indulged, Faust will go off to Hell. In Goethe’s imaginative second part, Faust and Mephistopheles interact with figures from Greek mythology with Faust eventually ends up going to Heaven.
Director Sharon Ann Fogarty’s colossal staging weaves together the many disparate technical elements into a unified mini-epic event. Actors sit at a long rectangular table and their images are on display in front of them facing the audience. Hanging monitors show Jeff Sugg’s arresting video design of stylized imagery of clouds, the sun and abstractions. Numerous characters appear on video. Paris and Helen of Troy are represented with a gorgeous Paul Taylor-style dance by choreographer Kristi Spessard.
The timeless landscape created by scenic designer Jim Clayburgh conjures an indeterminate past with stylistic grandeur. A triangular arrangement of red runway-type floors are framed by gray castle walls with a honeycomb of entrances. The configuration perfectly integrates the myriad of video monitors. Mr. Clayburgh’s lighting design has a soothing yet charged quality. Sound designer Fitz Patton renders the music and the effects with subtle ease. Composer Eve Beglarian’s accomplished original score is a regal synthesis of soaring melodies that is prominently featured. Marsha Ginsberg’s artful costume design is a textured mashup of the long ago with the present.
Clad in all black, the sleek, shaven-headed and charismatic Paul Kandel is a personably fierce Mephistopheles. With his expressively resonant voice and limber physicality Mr. Kandel delivers a performance of Shakespearean magnitude that richly lands every dramatic and comedic passage. Having a black shawl draped over his head and pointing with a long fake nail he further scores as a soothsaying crone.
The bearded, animated and soulful Benton Greene’s dynamic Faust commandingly takes the show on its eventful journey. Mr. Greene’s intense presence is out of Jesus Christ Superstar. Greene’s great chemistry with Kandel endows their interactions with depth.
Singing, dancing and acting with tremendous range and quiet force, the alluring Angelina Impellizzeri is a wonderful Helen of Troy. With his athletic build and charming manner Chris Rehmann’s taciturn Paris is an ideal partner for Ms. Impellizzeri and he precisely scurries about in another scene as The Gravedigger. Andrea Jones-Sojola as Mary and Oliver Medlin as Euphorion make delightful impressions.
Among the multitude of actors who appear in delightful cameos on video there are Black-Eyed Susan as Need, Greg Mehrten as The Emperor and Arthur French as Philemon.
Mabou Mines, the iconoclastic theater company was founded in 1970 and continues to produce edgy, significant works. Faust 2.0 perpetuates that tradition.
Faust 2.0 (through April 14, 2019)
122 Community Center, 150 First Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212.352.0255 or visit http://www.maboumines.org
Running time: one hour and 40 minutes with no intermission