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A CurtainUp Review
Faust in Love

by Les Gutman

[W]hy have you chained me to this foul companion, who feeds on suffering and hungers for destruction?
David Greenspan as Mephisto (l), George Hannah as Faust (center) and Eunice Wong as Gretchen
D. Greenspan, G. Hannah and E. Wong (Photo: Paula Court)
For those not likely to scale the heights (or, more aptly, the depths) of Faust on their own, Target Margin's multi-year construction of Goethe's theatrical monument represents a friendlier though quite full traipse through the 12,000+ line play. Faust in Love tackles the "Gretchen" story -- the second half of the first part of the overall work.

It picks up where last season's These Very Serious Jokes ended -- as Faust (now George Hannah) spots Gretchen (now Eunice Wong) on the street, and demands that Mephistopheles (again David Greenspan) aid him in "getting the girl". Faust indeed "gets" her, only to lose her, as the section concludes, at Death's door.

While this installment remains faithful to the story, it nonetheless manages to lose its way. Stylistically, it sheds many of the conventions of These Very Serious Jokes, yet it fails to find new ones: what's on display lacks consistency, and what we think of as Target Margin's prevailing sensibility is only fleetingly in evidence. When doing its best work, this company bears a strong imprint from its talented Artistic Director, David Herkovits. This time, there seems to be a very long tether.

One simple explanation of what is missing here is that the cast is populated with actors who, however good, are, with one exception, not Target Margin company members. That exception is Nicole Halmos, who plays Gretchen's neighbor and friend, Martha, and whose performance (think Flatbush housewife) is the only one that harkens back to the style for which Target Margin is known. David Greenspan is (as he was in the earlier installment) terrifically entertaining, but his performance follows the pattern of his own unique style. Similarly, George Hannah, though less well known, arrives in this production with what is clearly his own shtick, whereas Eunice Wong portrays Gretchen in a serviceable albeit unremarkable manner. Ditto for Kendra Ware and Wayne Alon Scott, who play lesser characters well but without special distinction.

The show's design elements also seem uneven. The sets (designed by Carol Bailey and Susan Barras) make excellent use of the Ohio Theatre's deep playing area (as contrasted with the especially shallow space at HERE where These Very Serious Jokes was staged), but is otherwise a very home-grown looking effort. The same is true of Kate Voyce's costumes. Yet Lenore Doxsee's lighting is quite sophisticated, as is John Collins sound design. And none of these designs bear the impishness we have come to expect of this theater.

All is not lost, of course. We will have to await the final installment to see the direction this huge project takes; perhaps it will be reconciled and righted by the time the promised marathon of the entire piece is presented at Classic Stage Company in 2006.

These Very Serious Jokes

Faust in Love
Based on Goethe's Faust as translated (and adapted) by Douglas Langworthy
Directed by David Herskovits
with David Greenspan, Nicole Halmos, George Hannah, Wayne Alon Scott, Kendra Ware, and Eunice Wong
Set Design: Carol Bailey and Susan Barras
Lighting Design: Lenore Doxsee
Costume Design: Kaye Voyce
Sound Consultant: John Collins
Original Songs by John King
Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes with no intermission
A production of Target Margin Theater
Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street, (Spring/Broome)
Telephone: (212) 358-3657
WED-SAT @8, SAT @4 and MON @7 (3/21, 4/11, 4/18 & 4/25); $20
Opening March 23, 2005, closing April 30, 2005
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 3/18/05 performance
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