‘Doctor Faustus’ gets astute modern staging

The Faust legend, where a man sells his soul to the devil for knowledge and power, is one of the icons of Western mythology. In “Doctor Faustus, ” Shakespeare’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe was the first to adapt the old medieval mystery play in a meditation on the character.

Faustus’ soliloquies on the nature of God feel very modern, indeed, and director Joseph Papke underlined this in his Classical Actors Ensemble production by casting Mephistopheles (a droll Arthur Moss) as a Southern revival preacher. Papke’s astute staging illuminated Marlowe’s ideas in a highly theatrical way. Rich humor came from a witty approach to the text. There was also a clever use of puppets and masks.

Michael Ooms made an excellent Faustus, taking a novel approach to the character. Rather than an old man, Ooms played him as a nerdy academic, brilliant but bumbling, and completely endearing. He ably made the transitions to hedonist and penitent, which made the final tragedy deeply moving.

Papke’s attempts to modernize language and point up meanings occasionally seemed condescending, and some of his supporting cast betrayed their inexperience. But all in all, this was an admirable effort.

The show will run in repertory with Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

7:30 p.m. Thu. and Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Nov. 1. Minneapolis Theatre Garage, 711 W. Franklin Av., Mpls. $21-$30. 651-321-4024, classicalactorsensemble.org.

WILLIAM RANDALL BEARD

French New Wave inspires Red Eye’s ‘The Slow Motion Carnival’

French New Wave cinema of the late 1950s and early 1960s inspires this strangely alluring new performance piece at Red Eye Theater. Writer Katharine Sherman draws from characters in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film “Contempt” and August Strindberg’s 1889 drama “Miss Julie.” Steve Busa, who conceived the show and directs it, has placed re-imagined scenes from both works on opposite sides of the stage with center stage as a commentary space.

The show pits a crassly commercial producer (Dustin Valenta) against a thoughtful film director (Miriam Must). Fragments from the show’s settings play intermittently in the rebel spirit of the New Wave technique of discontinuous storytelling. Scenes are deliberately cut short as Mike Wangen’s lights switch with seeming randomness to another scene. Nonverbal communication between actors is as essential as verbal.

Brian Coffin, Anna Sutheim and Tamara Clark mine delicacy and danger within Strindberg’s erotic triangle. Alana Horton and Billy Mullaney compel as a disenchanted actress and her detached screenwriter boyfriend. Though their words convey little, the silences between them emanate psychic discord. The tissue connecting the scenes is Dolo McComb’s sensually rhythmic choreography and Andrew Lee Dolan’s exhilarating sound design. Liz Josheff’s projections enhance the cinematic effect.

8 p.m. Thu.-Sat. 7 p.m. Sun. & Oct. 19; Red Eye, 15W. 14th St., Mpls.; $8-$20, 612-870-0309 or www.redeyetheater.org

JOHN TOWNSEND