Portland Mercury, October 16, 2003
By Toussaint Perrault
Every Halloween season we attempt to scare ourselves with the theater of fake blood and jack-o-lanterns. Some, however, take the concept of horror seriously, and are able to lead us through the black fog to the haunted houses of the creative imagination. Liminal’s Faust (Faust) , an adaptation of Goethe’s allegorical drama, Dr. Faustus , takes the viewing audience inside the conscience (and subconscious) of the ultimate Gothic antihero. A gallery of action replaces the traditional stage plan, while the viewing audience is encouraged to wander and to explore different perspectives.
Faust (Faust) draws upon the entire range of modern literature and art ushered in by Goethe’s grapple with sex, God, and science. And in case you haven’t been paying attention, a lot has happened in literature and art since 1832. Luckily, Liminal has been thoughtful and innovative in its cultural quotations, from the stream-of-consciousness narrative tradition to F.W. Murnau’s dreamy German Expressionism. For theater traditionalists, or fans of “plays,” Faust (Faust) merely uses Goethe’s script as a ribcage, wherein by laboratorial experimentation and alchemy a new generation of blood, guts, and soul are injected.
The Chorus, dressed in crisp white and black, resembles a deranged gang of bad Bible school children, and seem perfectly suited as ceremonial pallbearers. Likewise, Liminal’s principal actors, in action and dress, could easily be taken for midnight sleepwalkers or asylum escapees. By far the most effective mode of creative production in Faust (Faust) is the live musical score. The musicians channel Goethe aesthetes Mahler and Lizst as much as they pay homage to the musical geniuses of the past 50 years. A ghost-white pump organ wheezes, chains are dragged across the floor, and at one point you can hear John Cage’s femur bone being racked against a piano leg. The result is an uninterrupted mood of psychological terror - dark musical water that threatens to drown the dancers, the actors, and the audience.
Faust (Faust) is less a play than an incantation, a tearing-apart of the palimpsest of history, science, and art. The actors, dancers, and musicians move with a centrifugal force so perfectly random that it seems cosmologically inspired. Indeed the human soul in spiritual torment proves far more frightening than plastic vampire fangs.