American High School Theater Festival, C on Chambers Street, Edinburgh Fringe, Environmentalism, Faust, Fausted, Faustian Pact, Fitchburg State University (USA), Greens, Kevin Boudreau, Lisa Nguyen, Mike Daniel, Richard McElvain., Samantha de Manbey, Sarah Morin, The Devil, Theatre Review
The Devil is getting increasingly worried about humankind. The human race is no longer superstitious and infantile; it is more likely to solve a problem such as global warming by using its own resources than by, say, making a pact with the Devil. So the Devil decides to take a bold step: he will sell his soul to the environmentalist Dr. Sara Chris (Lisa Nguyen) if she can reduce the power of humanity. The Devil sends his own daughter Mephistopheles (Sarah Morin) to bargain with Dr. Chris. In exchange for the Devil’s soul, the doctor agrees to regale the United Nations with a preposterous, misanthropic vision of humans around the world starving and scorching because they cannot cope with the weather going up a couple of notches. This is so evil that the Devil suddenly feels like an amateur. Yet the politicians are too confident and Enlightened – their faith in humanity remains undiminished. The doctor next recruits her fellow environmentalists to blow up oil rigs. Humans, though, will never be defeated and Good triumphs.
Or it might be the other way around. But you get the picture. When the Devil and some environmentalists join forces, it is rather like the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
“Fausted” is written by Samantha de Manbey and it hails from the Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. It is now playing at C on Chambers Street. The play resembles a farce, but it seldom achieves the speed and weightlessness of a perfect farce, the sense that the actors are barely stopping to touch the ground. “Fausted” is firstly too long and secondly too complicated. There are always too many people on stage at any given time. It has the rather strained cheerfulness of a high school musical.
I was also irritated by the feeling, which I similarly acquired from yesterday’s “Clickbait,” and more broadly from the annual presence of American High School Theatre Festival, of American nationalism at the Fringe. The audience is filled with those beaming American groupies who only ever attend American high school shows and maybe visit Rosslyn Chapel on a day off. The audience whoops in a way that an internationalist Fringe audience doesn’t. I bring this up because “Fausted” puts forward comic foreigners – Indian and Chinese ambassadors with winceable accents – and it plunges them into American laughter. Theatregoers who walk in off the street might find this mildly off-putting.
Out of all the Seven Deadly Sins, “Fausted” may be most guilty of Sloth or complacency. If the play wasn’t guaranteed those whooping American audiences, who are at the Fringe but still mentally not quite here, then it would have to put up more of a fight. But none of this is to say that, as with “Clickbait,” there is not a virtuous play within “Fausted” somewhere. It occasionally delivers upon the promise of its ambitious premise and there is sophistication to the portrayal of its morally-compromised environmentalist. The cast is talented and energetic. Kevin Boudreau and Mike Daniel routinely apply their considerable powers to keeping the show trundling along.
I should also point out that today’s performance was very nearly cancelled. Nguyen appears to have literally broken a leg last night and an understudy had to fill in, showing great spirit and professionalism.