Story: Since 1947, the Doomsday Clock has been a symbol for the threat of global nuclear war maintained by members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board. At present, the clock is at 2 minutes before midnight, the closest it has been to that fateful hour since 1953.
Uninterested in the concerns of other people, ruthless and ambitious businessman John Faustus makes a deal with the demon Mephistopholes, an emissary of Satan, to sell his soul in exchange for helping quench his insatiable thirst for power, glory and all manner of material pleasures.
As the 45th president of the United States, Faustus (here also referred to as Donald Trump) fills his time in shallow pursuit of pleasure and adulation, an egocentric force who ignores any and all warning signs which may put a damper on his single-focused life. He’s heading for ultimate self-destruction, but his oblivious and arrogant ways may imperil others as well.
Highlights: The Post-Romantics conclude the five-company FAUSTival with this original work, presented by Equally Represented Arts (ERA), equating Donald Trump with the Faustian legend in sobering and effective fashion.
Other Info: Playwright and director James Bernatowicz utilizes material from Christopher Marlowe’s classic work, Doctor Faustus (A and B texts), with the aid of dramaturg Marilyn Arnold. He also adds social media posts of politicians and religious leaders, political speeches, transcripts for Miss America pageants, religious texts, news articles and devised scenes from his ensemble for this one-act, one-hour presentation.
Costume designer Marlene Bernatowicz dresses Faustus in a fine contemporary suit, also showing a modern flair for the wardrobes of Wagner and Helen of Troy along with some angel wings for the show’s “left angel” and “right angel.”
Ben Lewis’ lighting design includes four pillars of multi-colored bulbs, two on each side of the stage, while his sound design incorporates both classical strains and more upbeat, contemporary sounds. There’s also the sound of a shredder announcing its annoying presence at unpredictable times.
Blake Howard succeeds in showing the shallowness and venality of this post-modern Faustus in the guise of Trump, a Faustus who is certainly no intellectual. He’s complemented by Jakob Hulten’s pensive, thoughtful portrayal as a keenly observant Mephistopholes, who is amused at Faustus’ blind devotion to materialism despite the businessman’s imminent doom.
There’s satisfactory supporting work by Victoria Thomas as the scheming Helen of Troy, Erica Withrow as Faustus’s manipulated servant Wagner as well as a Pope Francis mocked by Faustus, and Katie Schoenfeld and Gabe Taylor as the Left Angel and Right Angel, respectively. Thomas, Schoenfeld and Taylor also take turns acting out the seven deadly sins which tempt Faustus frequently.
Director Bernatowicz keeps the story moving at a brisk enough clip to maintain its arresting style. His adaptation succeeds in drawing parallels between the medieval German myth and its uncomfortably contemporary profile.
It’s a fitting conclusion to the FAUSTIVAL, which also featured FAUST (Go Down with All the Re$t) by ERA, An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening by The Midnight Company, Whither Should I Fly by Theatre Nuevo and Doctor Faustus or the Modern Prometheus by SATE. An interesting intellectual and artistic experiment which took fresh looks at an ancient tale.
Play: Doomsday Faust
Company: The Post-Romantics
Venue: Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive Street
Dates: December 7, 8
Tickets: $10; contact www.artful.ly/era
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Kayla Colwell