At Bryant Hall, the word "rave" currently has two meanings: a wild, drug-fueled dance party, and an ecstatic and well-deserved reaction to Faust, one of the most inventive theatrical productions to hit Dallas this year.
The lights cut out, a disco ball starts spinning, and a grotesque "DJ" lurking in the sound booth high above the audience leers on as a glow stick-clutching mob writhes and undulates to a throbbing beat. If the faceless devil wearing fishnets and a corset on the cover of the program doesn't hint at what's to come, this opening scene lets you know right away what kind of naughty, slightly dangerous fun you're in for.
The Drama Club, a Dallas company formed in 2008 that's been recently dormant, has come roaring back with a sexy, scary, and downright delicious adaptation of Goethe's Faust. The centuries-old tale about one man's deal with the devil gets a modern jolt thanks to Michael Federico, Lydia Mackay, and director Jeffrey Schmidt, who have updated the story to New Jersey in the near future.
Cameron Cobb is Big Pharma chemist John Faust, who is feverishly working to develop the next lucrative wonder drug. After a lackluster presentation to his international investors — who crow and caw like judgmental birds — he's visited by a mysterious woman who promises she can give him all the wealth and power he's ever desired.
With cheekbones sharp as glass and one milky eye (MAC Cosmetics provides the dramatic makeup), Mackay is an alluringly treacherous Mephistopheles. She shadows Faust as his new medicine, Red Lion, quickly becomes the must-have treatment (with a host of startlingly creative side effects), and begins demanding small paybacks in preparation of the eternal one she's secured. Faust soon becomes addicted not only to the little vial of blood-red liquid, but also to the success that suddenly overwhelms his professional and personal lives.
Because what's money and prestige without someone to romance with it? Newcomer Chandler Ryan, recently excellent in The Adventures of Flo and Greg at Echo Theatre, is an anime princess come to life as Gretchen, the much-younger woman Faust connects with online. When we see what her life is like behind the screen, and what it becomes after Faust enters her world, it's a chilling comment on how we reinvent ourselves.
The black box of Bryant Hall feels even darker with Amanda West's simple yet incredibly effective set design. It's West's astonishing lighting that completely transforms rolling black walls into sinister hallways to Hell, and throwing open the shutters to creepily lit trees outside the building truly makes it feel like you're trapped in a horror film. Oh, and Tim O'Heir and Cobb's original compositions help mightily with that too.
If you feel the need to escape, hail an otherworldly cab driven by chatty Drew Wall. Schmidt's clever staging of these high-speed rides provides a welcome bit of black comedy, but also know that there's no escaping the devil when she's got your number.
The Drama Club's Faust runs through October 24.