note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Beverly Creasey
The Pilgrim Theatre is presenting their own demonic version of "Faust" at the cavernous Cyclorama space at the Boston Center for The Arts prior to an appearance abroad at the Malta Festival. The Pilgrim's wildly inventive take on the guy who sells his soul to the devil is called "Faust 2002" and is based largely on Goethe's text ---although it abandons the story after Faust's pursuit of Gretchen/ I think I saw a "Helen of Troy" (transvestite) danced just before the piece ended (it indicated Helen was a character, in the program) but that wasn't very clear.
Goethe's messages about beauty and redemption are lost in the jumble of images --- many of which are whimsical and wondrous: like the apprentice devil who bicycles pell-mell after the menacing motorcyclist from hell The Pilgrim collaborators (under the direction of Kim Mancuso) shroud Goethe's "Bleibe doch, du bist so schon" (the exquisite moment Faust craves) and Gretchen's redemption, and even Faust's fate, among myriad images of snarling shadow dogs, roller-skating demons, and unexplained masked intruders. The fancy footwork is sensational, but it eclipses the point of the production.
Nevertheless, gorgeous images (a whirling mating dance, a homunculus emerging from a gauzy chrysalis, a distraught Gretchen drowning her baby in the silk-white water) make the Pilgrim's "Faust 2002" compelling. If only they could leave behind the ponderous language and distil the visceral meat of the story.
I'm a Faust junkie, (especially the operas) so I knew what Pilgrim was trying to show --- but my innocent companion couldn't make heads or tails of it, though he enjoyed the ride. Of course the devil has the most fun, crawling like a spider over the towering scaffolding, resplendent in red satin, black lace, and fishnet, taunting God...taunting us.
It'd a pity they can't take the Cyclorama with them to Malta: my favorite moment came when Faust expressed his desire to know what "holds the world together" and I looked up at the glass domed with its metal framework mimicking longitude and latitude looming above us as if we were at the center of the universe at that moment.
And I wished the globe of light which adorned the Cyclorama were detachable so the devil could hurl one to the ground just like the Boito Opera when Mephistopheles shows what he can do to the world. If the "experiment" Pilgrim intended was to get us thinking about our souls, then they've succeeded, because I'm still relishing their visuals.