Theater review: ‘Doctor Faustus’ presented by The Rude Mechanicals
If you think you’ve been to hell lately, guess again. The Rude Mechanicals has gone all out, left no web-based or Zoom-based stones to give you a truly delicious live version of Christopher Marlowe’s evil classic, “Doctor Faustus.” This shape-shifting production features an incredibly versatile roster, most of whom play at least five to six parts, while the genius and greedy Bill Bodie stars as Faustus – that is, your worst nightmare or The Geek Who Thinks. He is God.
Convinced of his own genius, we follow Bodie’s Faustus who easily falls under the charms of Mephistopheles and his superior, Satan. The delightful twist here is that Mephistopheles takes on over nine to ten different characters (read: actors) over the course of the play. Which makes for a truly dizzying climax, as Faustus confronts his hellish fate in front of everyone on your screen both taunting and seducing him.
Director Claudia Bach deftly choreographed what appear to be hundreds of character changes, accompanied by various Zoom background graphics (among others) to showcase her cast. There are so many of them that it’s really unfair that I can only mention a few highlights here.
As Lucifer (in particular), Lexi Stein is fascinating as a cold-blooded reptilian blonde whose impartial and steady tone and gaze is truly baffling. Jacqueline Youm takes on the role of Lechery (and others, shall we say, related characters) with relish. You’d be peeling grapes for her in the blink of an eye. The widest range of roles belongs to the charismatic Wes Dennis, who for one minute turns into gluttony, then dons the papal robes, and then the glasses of a scholar. Nathan Rosen’s Good Angel begs Faustus (or the executioners, it’s hard to say) to repent, but then puts on sunglasses like a version of Mephistopheles to tempt him again.
The list of star tours is endless. Believe me, you’ll have fun keeping up with the rapid changes, aided in many cases by the latest computer tricks and social media technology, all of which serve as a reminder of just how contemporary Marlowe’s twisted world is still. You will find yourself in an all too familiar environment of ringtones, notification tones, twisted graphics. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to escape all of that and maybe, just maybe, to see this team live on stage soon?
There’s another live show on Saturday May 22, so do you really want to sit back and hope for a recording, or do you want to see this hard-working company do its magic in real time? The Rude Mechanicals is one of the few companies I’ve seen that have taken advantage of this pandemic year and come up with some truly liberating ways to mess your head up through your computer screen.
“Doctor Faustus” runs May 21 – May 22, presented by The Rude Mechanicals. To access the performance, visit the Rude Mechanicals YouTube page here.
To donate in support of The Rude Mechanical’s incredible work, please click here.