Notes from the Fringe

Three shows not to miss
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  June 27, 2012

LOOKING FOR BRIGHTNESS Portland Theater Collective's Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights.

As you read these very words, the great Portland Fringe 2012 is already up and running. Herein we highlight three of the Fringe's more beguilingly strange offerings.

Let's start with the audaciously experimental writer Gertrude Stein's take on the immortal story of Faust: In her 1938 libretto DR. FAUSTUS LIGHTS THE LIGHTS, staged here by the Portland Theater Collective under the direction of Tess Van Horn, at Geno's, it is electric illumination for which the knowledge-hungry doctor (Chris Holt) has sold his soul to Mephisto (a befeathered Karen Ball). Faustus now shifts his obsession to his own soul, or lack thereof, and that of the plural woman "Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabelle" (Casey Turner and Vanessa Romanoff, in purple sequins), who has been bitten by a deadly Viper (Ian Carlsen).

At once Seussian and witchy, its language laden with neurotic syncopations, overlapping chorus repetitions, and sing-song internal rhymes, Stein's Faustus is an irreverent, disarming, impossible-to-gloss riddle about power and humanity. And PTC's production, alternately antic and hair-raising, is one to put at the top of your Fringe list. In the two-level checkerboard depths of Geno's, some of Portland's most dynamic actors will be lighting and extinguishing myriad lamps, and circling poor Faustus with eerily meaningful nonsense.

DR. FAUSTUS LIGHTS THE LIGHTS | by Gertrude Stein | Directed by Tess Van Horn | Produced by the Portland Theater Collaborative | June 26 @ 7 pm + June 30 @ noon, at Geno's, 625 Congress St, Portland

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