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Tuesday, September 19

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« Berry Sanders: Tales from the Bubble Putting the Fun Back In Fear »

Theatre Sat Sep 26 2009

An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening

TheaterOobleck_Apology_1#AB45 copy.jpgYou couldn't find a better venue for Theater Oobleck's An Apology For the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening than the lower level of the Chopin Theatre. From the comfort of an anteroom filled with overstuffed chairs and eclectic art, the audience waits and watches for the door of the theatre - a huge thing on rollers, to rumble open revealing a spare set of two chairs placed at a distance of about fifteen feet, facing each other, and two hanging lamps lighting the actors - Colm O'Reilly in the role of John Faustus, and David Shapiro as his servant of twenty-four years, Mephistopheles. There are only four rows of seating, two on either side of the set, limiting the choice of where to spend the next ninety minutes of your life to either: close to the stage, or even closer.

With none of the muffled anonymity of hiding behind rows of theater-goers, you and your fellow patrons become part of the play itself, causing both discomfort and a sense of common purpose and witness to O'Reilly's masterful turn as the man who sold his soul to the devil. From my seat (I was in the even closer section) I could see the sweat on the actor's brow, and the bright orange tag stapled to the cuff of his suit pants - an homage to the Village Discount Outlet, that great repository of affordable costuming. Something in his manner reminded me of Peter Lorre circa M, made stronger by Faustus' reminiscence of the alphabet, a thing he hasn't used in the twenty-four years since he made a pact with Mephistopheles: "My hand, my whole arm, misses those blobby 'O's, those languorous 'S's. The thrusting peaks of 'M'."

The distinct rumbling of the Blue Line passing through its underground burrow mixed with sounds emanating from a different production in progress upstairs add to the sense of underworld-ness that is central to the piece. There really was no need to make the pre-show announcement about turning cell phones off, as there's no chance of getting a signal in this cavern.

O'Reilly immediately puts the audience at ease with his mastery of the part, easily overcoming what could become a very squirmy and distressing experience in lesser hands. Shapiro's command of Mephistopheles is not to be overlooked - he has no speaking lines, but must endure a diatribe that rivals anything doled out to an umpire, without once breaking his composed equilibrium.

Mickle Maher's text is a delight to hear out loud, and contains lines that would make apt fortunes at a Chinese restaurant of the absurd. Imagine yourself opening a cookie after a satisfying meal to read: "Be happy with the world that spills from your hump."

An Apology is being performed on Fridays and Saturdays, September 25th through October 24th at 8pm at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division. Tickets are $12 or pay-what-you-can -- and, as ever, free if you're broke. And if that's not enough to get you there, there's also free beer and potato chips.

For more information, call 773-347-1041 or visit www.theateroobleck.com.

 
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