Gertrude Stein's "Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights" is an illuminating slice of theatre of the absurd and a deconstructed story of stories. It takes off on Marlowe's tragedy about a doctor selling his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge, as well as the biblical tale of the Garden of Eden and its infamous snake. Under the vital and imaginative direction of Willa Bepler, this fragmented short play with yards of repetitive lines and a repertoire of symbols is a wonderfully intriguing production.
The characters of Faustus (Joshua Pohja), a dog (Anne Gridley), and a boy (Nicholas Warren-Gray) live in a suspended world of perpetual light. A woman-Stein calls her "Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel" (Abigail Marlowe)-born in the forest and soon bitten by a viper, asks Faustus to help heal her wound. Faustus, ever tormented by the devil, Mephisto (Caitlin McDonough-Thayer), wants to leave his soulless existence on earth and go to hell. The devil will allow it if he kills someone. He promptly murders the dog and boy. But the devil, who relishes the woman, offers Faustus eternal youth if he persuades the woman to go to hell with him. The woman stands firmly and refuses, affirming her place in the world of the living.
Pohja leads the cast in a brilliant portrayal of Faustus-strained, mechanized, and trapped by his myopic plan. Gridley is perfect as a robot-like dog, subservient and eternally grateful. Marlowe plays the woman with wide-eyed innocence and indeterminate will. She is an unlikely heroine, simply stating at the end, "Here I am; I am here." She joins Man From Over The Seas (Max Faugno) after the devil departs with Faustus. Olubunmi Banjoko plays A Country Woman and acts as the chorus with Faugno, who narrates part of this tale. Nick Krapels designed the eerie clock-like sound effects.