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Shows Worth Seeing:

Faust: A Love Story
Inspired by Goethe, Christopher Marlowe and earlier sources
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St., Brooklyn
Box office: (718) 636-4100

In this modernized Icelandic production of Faust, the action is set in a contemporary old folk’s home rather than 16th-century Gemany, and the title character is a self-pitying, retired star actor rather than the jaded and solitary professor Goethe conceived. The director Gisli Om Gardarsson has also overhung the stage with a circus net where various Rocky Horroresque characters affiliated with Mephisto roll, tumble, bounce, cavort and leap onto the floor in dangerous, vaguely sinful, and occasionally hilarious delight. The self-conscious histrionics do chime with some of this masterwork’s fundamental themes. Faust and Mephisto are both essentially performers in Goethe’s play, flagrantly theatrical in different ways, equally unashamed of it, and equally certain that they are proof against seduction by illusion. Unfortunately, these Icelandic adaptors have little interest in developing that emphasis in any serious way. The text (written by Gardarsson with four collaborators) is deeply invested in its unserious sparkle-appeal as a tumbling show in skimpy horror costumes. It also reduces the story to a rather simplistic and sentimental tale of regret over deferred love—as often happens with adaptations of Faust, Part One. What makes the show worth seeing is the discerning and dignified performance of the lead actor, Thorsteinn Gunnarsson, which lifts everything with its grace and balance. Also, the retirement home setting is surprisingly poignant—amusing and moving and, with its constant reminder of mortality, a pointedly suggestive contrast with all the youthful physical exertion on the net above.



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