Dr. Faustus | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Dr. Faustus, Ivanhoe Theater.

The program calls this work "Steven Rumbelow's Dr. Faustus, Adapted and Directed by Steven Rumbelow," and four times proclaims it Britain's longest-touring show. Rumbelow's bio touts his "15-page resume" and remarks that he has "work[ed] with many celebrities." In fact, Frank Capra Jr. "will be flying into Chicago during the run of the show to spend time with Steven planning their next production." Oh, and in case you're wondering about the play, Rumbelow humbly suggests--twice--that "Faustus is the expression of the human condition."

Perhaps these snippets shed light on Rumbelow's quarter-century infatuation with Faust, history's legendary soul-selling egomaniac. Drawing primarily from Christopher Marlowe's jarring Elizabethan play and dropping in smatterings of Byron and Goethe to soothe the 20th-century ear, Rumbelow distills the story to two characters: Dr. Faustus and Mephistophilis. For Rumbelow, Mephistophilis is "Faust's other self," but his quasi-Jungian reading produces 90 minutes of pretentious "experimental" nonsense. He crams his stage with facile expressionistic excess--all-black costumes, white face paint, harsh lighting, a sound design made up mostly of echoing clangs, and endless angst-ridden glowers from the actors--but leaves the relationship between Faust and Mephistophilis woefully underdeveloped. Philip Shepherd and Alan Bridle work themselves into lathers but rarely create an honest moment--this is a production as soulless as Faustus on Judgment Day.

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