letter consists of text and 3 images embedded in the text; I'm not
sure how it will appear in AOL mail]
This afternoon I saw the Stanislavsky Theater Studio's production of Faust at the Church Street Theater.
It was an unusual production. At a rough guess I ‘d say 1/2 of the show had dialogue but 1/2 had none, just movement. You might want to picture a ballet but without music.
The “movement” was very effective. For example, they opened the Prologue in Heaven with the fallen angels striving for God's light; but then Mephistopheles enters with a cape that turns into a spider web and brings them all back and under his control. I can only describe it very prosaically but it was really well done on the stage.
Another example of “movement” was the infanticide scene, where Gretchen is in a box on top of the stage killing the child, while the
stage is filled with actors creating the waves of the river. When Mephistopheles is
the poodle, you can really believe he is the poodle. A last example that sticks out
was Faust visiting Gretchen in her cell. The scene begins filled with witches from the Walpurgisnacht using cords and ropes stretched the width of the stage to symbolize bars; but Mephistopheles enters and as Gretchen walks forward he changes the bars into marionette strings that he operates to control her body.
There are no sets and props; instead the actors function as furniture and pieces of scenery. There are no true costumes; the actors all wear black lycra leotards and whatever you call a long sleeve leotard for the top of your body. At times they drape robes or scarves over themselves to create a costume. There is incidental music but it sounds much closer to Russian music than to German.
Even though the dialogue was secondary, it was there. Sometimes odd things were done, like treating “Zwei Seelen in meiner Brust” or “ich bin der Geist der stets verneint” as throwaway lines. But when they played the script straight there was a lot of jars.
The group has been here for 8 or 10 years but is Russian and has not done too well with English enunciation and English pronunciation. Mephistopheles, Wagner, Faust and Gretchen were played by Russians with an accent that was real but which sounded like something from Boris and Natasha, the spies from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Wagner was also mostly unintelligible and seemed mentally defective instead of pedantic. Only Martha and Valentine were speaking roles played by people with normal English.
The house [which is small] was sold out; overwhelmingly people in their 20s. [The cast list is an attachment to this letter]