With captivating music and powerfully loud, punchy dialogue and narration, the infamous tale of Doctor Faustus unfolds in the prohibition/gangster era of the Roaring Twenties. Not a single word is spoken or sung on stage, however, as this is Southpaw Dance Company, specializing in danced movement. Like a movie theater, rich, resonant, pre-recorded American tones echo through the auditorium to tell the story and score the dialogue, all to great effect. Meanwhile, on stage, the dancers mimic the words and act out the characters, their gestures and movements large, exaggerated and stylized, like those of puppets or cartoon characters – which becomes a bit the same. All along the music comes through, combining big band classics, modern hits, tense soundscapes and sound effects with songs like Putting On the Ritz, I Put A Spell On You or a fuzzy, distorted I Get No Kick from Champagne, pantomime, dance and movement. Broad, flowing shimmers and meanders accompany the performed lines as the dance travels from 1920’s swing to BBoying, with the breakdances proving quite breathtaking. The backdrops are as powerful, frenetic and relentless as the music and dance, and constantly in motion. Props may consist only of odd chairs and tables and a large pair of shimmering angel wings, but behind them are five aesthetically pleasing boxes cleanly outlined in bright light, three squares and two rectangles. All manner of projections flit and flash through the speakers (disappointingly all black and white), from shots of era dancers and romantic clips of Audrey Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart, to more abstract imagery and a clever projection of our fist dancing onstage. Seeing himself in a crudely drawn mirror, the live dancer uses his projection to begin a desperate, insane dance as they fly over the boxes. After selling his soul to the devil to find more meaning in life than he found through knowledge and learning, Faust, Doctor of Philosophy, formerly a hardworking, highly moral man of integrity, finds that his life is nothing but Trouble is madness and agony. Deceived by the cackling, sly devil and by Lady Mephistopheles in a red jumpsuit, he is helpless to ward them off. But in the end, could the humble, innocent waitress Gretchen prove his salvation and give his life more meaning than all the drinking, gambling, and loosening women (portrayed by young local girls dancing their legs in glittering costumes)? A big part of the show’s 70-minute energy and powerful drive comes from the big, big soundtrack and visuals. It’s a fine brew, but a greater variety of gestures and movements and more coordinated precision would further enhance it, along with greater clarity of story staging at various points. Yet it is all too clear that Satan is ready and waiting for each of us! He’s such a devil when it comes to setting traps! Eileen Caiger Gray

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