Is this the play that launch’d modern theater? Classic Stage Company provides a very interesting essay on that subject by artistic director Brian Kulick. Would that they had provided a worthy production of Christopher Marlowe’s seminal “Doctor Faustus” about an actual showman around whom a myth grew that he must have made a deal with Satan, so real were his magical shows that “resurrected” historical figures. No such illusion is sustained at CSC.
Chris Noth –– iconic as Mr. Big on “Sex and the City” and Detective Mike Logan on “Law and Order” and with creditable stage work under his belt –– comes across on this stage as too small to box with God and the Devil, his mostly too soft voice occasionally punctuated with yelling instead of the resonant delivery that might serve the verse.
This new adaptation by David Bridel and Andrei Belgrader and directed by Belgrader emphasizes the humor in the play from Zach Grenier’s playfully sinister Mephistopheles to the ensemble’s burlesque-like embodiments of the seven deadly sins. But most of it was so overbroad that it came across as bad children’s theater ––abruptly interrupted by a super-sexy Helen of Troy late in the game. It alternately brought to mind everything from “Sesame Street” to “The Three Stooges” to “Saturday Night Live,” and not in a good way.
This adaptation might have worked with the lead played by Donald Trump or an actor portraying Trump –– an unbelievably arrogant clown who has become incredibly successful through numerous deals with devils.
Classic Stage has been one of my favorite houses in New York, but they are developing a disturbing penchant for productions built around miscast celebrities. Here’s hoping they will return to their founding principles and stop making deals with the devils of pure commerce.
DOCTOR FAUSTUS | Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St. | Through Jul. 12: Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat.- Sun. at 3 p.m. | $66 - $126 at classicstage.org or 212-677-4210, ext. 10 | Two hrs., 10 mins., with intermission