It’s hard to miss Mickle Maher’s brilliance in this ingenious retooling of the Faust legend, which he wrote and in which he stars as the jittery, self-recriminating doctor watching the last 60 minutes of his life slip away. Maher’s Faust is not the Renaissance braggart of Marlowe or the Romantic titan of Goethe but a skittish nobody plucked from the most pathetic comedies of Gogol. This Faust has purposely shrunk his life to a series of meaningless, forgettable tasks, reasoning that if he becomes nondescript Mephistopheles won’t recognize him when it comes time to claim his soul. Maher’s heady, nerve-racking performance is riveting and ridiculous, but Colm O’Reilly as Mephistopheles is every bit as remarkable–despite the fact that he neither speaks nor moves during the play. O’Reilly sits like a slab of granite with an unchanging, unreadable expression, perfectly capturing the intractable indifference that drives Faust mad. They say a great actor can captivate an audience by reading the phone book; O’Reilly accomplishes the same thing doing absolutely nothing. Berger Park Cultural Center, 6205 N. Sheridan, 312-397-4010. Opens Friday, January 28, 8 PM. Through March 25: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $10 or “pay what you can.”

–Justin Hayford

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Phil Cantor.