By Elena Terry
“I found myself relating with Johanna to an uncomfortable degree and this had me leaving the theater in deep thought about the opportunities that have recently closed in my face, or life events I wish I could change possibly by making a deal with that devilishly charming demon myself.”
Faustus: That Damned Woman, written by Chris Bush and passionately directed by Raulie Martinez, tackles the classic German story of Faust and turns it on its head. Martinez took this to heart in his MainStage debut as a director and even made it feel like a brand new story. Instead of a male protagonist, we meet Johanna Faustus, who — with her frustrated ambition due to doors constantly being closed in her face — makes a deal with the devil to change her life and open those doors that have remained closed most of her life. Was it the right decision to make a deal with the devil? I’ll leave that for you to discover, dear reader.
Faustus was played by Callie Hutchinson; she was ambitious, strong, independent, and even at times slightly abrasive, and I could see Hutchinson really playing with the complex and emotional layers of such a uniquely flawed character. It is a feat for any actor to achieve that complexity. Zachary Austin as Mephistopheles was also detailed, witty and devilishly charming. Austin’s expressive acting constantly drew my eyes to whatever the character was reacting to and often got a chuckle or smile out of me… which is, I admit, hard to achieve! One performance that also caught my attention was Shannon Elias as Elizabeth Garrett / Marie Curie. Elias brought just the right amount of seriousness and light-hearted humor that the play needed. Her roles were expertly executed, and I imagine most audience members wouldn’t believe her if she said that this was her S&S MainStage debut. She had my date (my theater-obsessed daughter) in giggles all night. The rest of the cast consisted of equally talented actors with stand-out moments for each of them. My sincere congratulations to Michael Levin, Julia Balestracci, Allison Akmajian, Gianbari Deebom, and David Gunther on marvelous performances across the board.
When it comes to the technical elements of the show, I found that the show as a whole was very technically over-ambitious (just like our dear Johanna Faustus) and some of the technical elements were not exactly needed to enhance the story and were somewhat distracting. For example: a projected clock and other various small lighting elements. I wouldn’t say that for all the elements though. This occult obsessed reviewer enjoyed some of the extra-spooky lighting used in the play’s most important scenes. The transitions were another weakness in the play, because they seemed stiff and often distracted me away from what was happening in the scene. I would have loved to see more finesse and choreography for some of those transitions, or maybe even possibly make them separate from the scene they were in. However, some other technical elements like intimacy direction, costume design, and the musical elements were of a notably high caliber and were beautifully detailed elements of the show.
At its epicenter, this play is just as complex as the characters, actors, and audience members that were present. Every person has their flaws, everyone has desires, and every person could be faced to make a deal with a devil. I found myself relating with Johanna to an uncomfortable degree and this had me leaving the theater in deep thought about the opportunities that have recently closed in my face, or life events I wish I could change possibly by making a deal with that devilishly charming demon myself. I hope that if you are looking for something to do during this wonderfully spooky season you would strongly consider attending a performance and possibly waltz with the devil! You can catch performances through the end of the month, and there is a special pre-show talk on the history of Faust and famous stage adaptations of the story at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 23.
Scoundrel & Scamp recommends this show for ages 15+.
Faustus: That Damned Woman runs through October 30 at Scoundrel & Scamp Theater. For more information, show dates and times, and to purchase tickets, please visit https://scoundrelandscamp.org/faustus.
The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre requires patrons to wear masks.