An Apology for the course and outcome of certain events delivered by Dr. John Faustus on this his final evening
Theater Oobleck

Highly Recommended - Christopher Shea, TimeOut Chicago 10/8/09

Best Bet - Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader Fall 2009 Arts Guide 8/28/09

“..a nearly perfect marriage of canny script and eccentric performance.. This is where fringe theater will beat out larger downtown productions every time” - Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune 9/30/09

"Do yourself a favor. Go see this and bring that friend of yours that simply has no use for fringe theater." - Don Hall, noted theater blogger - donhall.blogspot.com

buy tickets

9/25/09 - 11/8/09

Fri-Sat 8p; Sun 3p
Extended + Sundays added


Highly Recommend - Christopher Shea, Timeout Chicago 10/8/09 - “In dim, claustrophobic quarters in the Chopin basement, Faustus fritters away his final hours bitching about his demon-servant Mephistopheles’s habit of peeping into the diary he’s filled with pointless hash marks.

At first glimpse, Maher’s fantastically unique two-man take on the Faust tale, An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening, is pretty No Exit. In true existential fashion, Faustus claims to be trapped in the present and unfettered by posterity or God. But his emphasis on the “now”—a word he repeats like a tic throughout the play—conflicts with the doctor’s leaps from the Stone Age (which he visits on a whim) to the present day, where he imparts his tale to a 2009 audience.

Maher builds a fascinating 80-minute monologue through this and other incompatible images: Trace, for example, the descriptions of Mephistopheles’s gaze, which Faustus loathes sometimes for its “infinite” superficiality and sometimes for its searing profundity. Faustus’s mangled rhetoric hints we can’t quite trust our narrator’s account.

Did we mention the play’s hilarious? O’Reilly, who created the role of Mephistopheles in Apology’s 1999 premiere, now plays Faustus to frantic perfection, utilizing his weathered baby face (here with comically dark circles under his eyes) to portray the quintessential academic, as frazzled as he is self-assured. His manic mocking of the silent, stone-still Mephistopheles (Shapiro)—the Donny to Faustus’s Dude—alone proves sidesplitting enough to make the evening unmissable.


An Apology – Zac Thompson, Chicago Reader 10/6/09 - “While a silent, stone-faced Mephistopheles looks on, Doctor Faustus spends his final moments on earth telling us, ‘the people of the future,’ about his day. In brief: he woke up, wrangled with his demonic sidekick over a diary filled with meaningless hatch marks, traveled in time to a 7-Eleven for snacks, and . . . that’s about it. Playwright Mickle Maher brilliantly turns the soul-bartering magician’s bid for omniscience into a plea for meaning where there is none. The monologue is delivered by Colm O’Reilly, who looks and sounds like a shabby young Orson Welles as he conveys with mesmerizing intensity Faust’s intellect, desperation, dissoluteness, and determination.”


An Apology – Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader 10/1/09 - “In 1999, Mickle Maher asked Colm O'Reilly, one of the savviest fringe actors in Chicago, to be in his new two-character show for Theater Oobleck, An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening. Maher would play Faust, a skittish, self-aggrandizing schmuck facing his final hour on earth by delivering an extravagant, hilarious, and ultimately unnerving monologue about the sublime meaninglessness of nearly all human endeavors. O'Reilly would play Mephistopheles, Faust's implacable tormentor, and sit silent and motionless for the entire show. The gig was was harder than it sounds. "It was exhausting to do night after night," O'Reilly says, "trying to stay in a state where I'm a million miles away, where Faust is like a fly, where the character's sense of time and space--he's in hell, after all--is so vast." O'Reilly's stolid impenetrability was inexplicably mesmerizing, an exquisite foil to Maher's dazzling verbal gymnastics. For Oobleck's tenth anniversary remount, O'Reilly finally gets to make some noise, playing Faust to David Shapiro's Mephistopheles. "It'll be nice to move around at last," he says”



Theater review: Devil is in the details in Theater Oobleck's telling of Faust legend – Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune 9/30/09

Lurching and pacing a narrow path across the basement of the Chopin Theatre, Faustus -- that great adventuring malcontent of literature and stage -- has come to say a few final words.

What ensues is a ripping self-eulogy for a man yet to take his last breath, one last indulgent monologue that curls through the air like so much smoke, heavy with biting humor and black pangs of what-does-it-all-mean?

Regardless of your familiarity with the Faust legend -- of the man who sells his soul to the devil with disastrous results -- the piece stands on its own. More to the point, you might find it difficult to hear Faustus spew his litany of complaints without thinking of altogether different source material: Larry David.

It's worth noting that Mickle Maher's script dates to 1996 (preceding "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), but the characters are not-so-distant cousins -- men plagued by annoyances and personal demons. Theater Oobleck first staged "An Apology" 10 years ago, with Maher in the title role opposite a silent, staring Mephistopheles, played by Colm O'Reilly.

Now a decade later, O'Reilly has picked up the Faustus mantle himself (with an amusing, unflappable David Shapiro as Mephisto) in what is a nearly perfect marriage of canny script and eccentric performance. Despite a slackening of tension that hampers the middle portion, the show rebounds.

Much of this is due to the production's mesmerizing intimacy. This is where fringe theater will beat out larger downtown productions every time.

O'Reilly gives a performance filled with incredible detail and subtlety, each twitch and twinge delivered in close-up.

Here is an actor plainly having the time of his life. Suited up, he looks like a cross between John F. Kennedy and a young Orson Welles. (The story lends itself to Camelot or "Citizen Kane" analogies.) Words swirl out of his mouth with an oratory pomp, and it's as if the man were gargling his very ego -- his every wish-fulfillment gone horribly wrong.

Maher writes in a hilarious style I would describe as muscular, conversational grandiosity. And yet it is the simplest utterances that carry the most weight.

"Stupid," Faustus mutters to himself, and there is a whole world contained in that single thought.



'Back in the Faust Lane' - John Beer, TimeOut Chicago 9/23/09 - “A decade ago, Theater Oobleck debuted playwright Mickle Maher’s version of the Faust legend, An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening. Audiences who found their way to the bunkerlike 6 Odum space, or later to the coach house at Berger Park, were greeted by Faust’s abstruse and haunting reflections, delivered by Maher and accompanied by the unnervingly silent presence of Colm O’Reilly as Mephistopheles.

Now Oobleck is about to remount that early triumph at the Chopin Theatre, with O’Reilly playing Faust and Wallace Shawn specialist David Shapiro as Mephistopheles.

When we meet with Maher and O’Reilly at Berger Park to discuss the past and present versions of An Apology, the coach-house door is locked, the place deserted. The main park building? Also locked. We head for some inviting café tables, but the café apparently has been shut down, the tables roped off. Maher, 46, and O’Reilly, 35, greet each setback with the resigned humor of Maher’s characters, generally set on ridiculous, fruitless quests.

“All my plays deal at some level with the comic futility of theater,” the Evanston-based writer explains, once we’ve settled for a park bench, “the way it proclaims its own importance, even if it really isn’t justified.” In the years since An Apology, those plays have included The Hunchback Variations, in which Maher as Beethoven and O’Reilly as Quasimodo tried to account for their failure to create an impossible sound; Spirits to Enforce, in which phone-banking superheroes raised money to stage The Tempest; and The Strangerer, in which O’Reilly as Jim Lehrer moderated a debate between Maher’s John Kerry and Guy Massey’s homicidal George W. Bush. These works display the ornate, quirky language and melancholy hilarity that have made Maher one of the fringe scene’s most celebrated writers.

They also underscore the close working relationship between Maher and O’Reilly, whose quiet fervor has consistently lent conviction to the playwright’s elaborate, fanciful constructions. “Doing Mephistopheles in 1999 was a new beginning for me. I’d stopped acting at that point,” O’Reilly recalls. “The play opened my eyes aesthetically, and every project I’ve worked on for Oobleck has deepened that.”

When Maher first cast O’Reilly, he’d known him not as an actor but as the son of Curious Theatre Branch founder Beau O’Reilly. But once he recognized Colm’s unique capabilities, Maher began writing parts with him in mind. “In fact,” he says, “this is the first production of mine where the speaking role wasn’t specifically written for Colm.”

While the remount reflects a decade of artistic development—“we’re trying to make it even more minimalist,” Maher says—the author resists connecting it to events in the public sphere. “The outside world doesn’t give meaning to a play; a play gives meaning to the outside world,” he insists. “The idea that Obama’s President now, say, so let’s do a play about a deal with the devil: It’s just not like that.”

Personal changes, on the other hand, do add resonance. “We both have kids now,” Maher observes (his son is seven, O’Reilly’s daughter two). “In a really perverse way, the Faustus play is about parenthood. Your privacy has been invaded, there’s this presence beyond language, and your own meaning is all wrapped up in it.” Although childless when he wrote the play, Maher found it anticipated his time as a stay-at-home dad. “The diapers, the crying, the waking up: I did a lot of talking to myself.” Faustus sends his regrets starting Friday 25.



Best Bet - Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader Fall 2009 Arts Guide 8/28/09

In 1999, Mickle Maher asked Colm O'Reilly, one of the savviest fringe actors in Chicago, to be in his new two-character show for Theater Oobleck, An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening.

Maher would play Faust, a skittish, self-aggrandizing schmuck facing his final hour on earth by delivering an extravagant, hilarious, and ultimately unnerving monologue about the sublime meaninglessness of nearly all human endeavors. O'Reilly would play Mephistopheles, Faust's implacable tormentor, and sit silent and motionless for the entire show.

The gig was was harder than it sounds. "It was exhausting to do night after night," O'Reilly says, "trying to stay in a state where I'm a million miles away, where Faust is like a fly, where the character's sense of time and space—he's in hell, after all—is so vast." O'Reilly's stolid impenetrability was inexplicably mesmerizing, an exquisite foil to Maher's dazzling verbal gymnastics.

For Oobleck's tenth anniversary remount, O'Reilly finally gets to make some noise, playing Faust to David Shapiro's Mephistopheles. "It'll be nice to move around at last," he says
A lean, tragicomic version of the Faustus story, An Apology … presents Doctor Faustus in the last hour of his final night on earth – irritated, whining, drunk, and repentant of nothing save his failure to keep a proper diary.

Over the course of this hour he rails against his silent servant Mephistopheles and tells the fantastic tale of his life – a life filled with wonders, as well as an immeasurably vast evil.

For this tenth anniversary production company member Colm O’Reilly, who played Mephistopheles in the original production, takes on the role of Faustus. David Shapiro, recently seen as Leo Strauss in Oobleck’s Strauss at Midnight, plays Mephistopheles

An Apology …,written by Oobleck cofounder Mickle Maher, was originally produced to critical acclaim in 1999 and in 2000, in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art.



Theater Review: An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Dr. John Fausus on this His Final Evening - Don Hall, noted theater blogger 9/28/09

"So. Human to human. I apologize. I've left my story to self-indulgent scribblers. Yes, I've read the books and seen the plays, the movies, the operas. Bogus. Every word. I'm sorry." -- John Faustus (via Mickle Maher)

The story of Faustus centers on a low-born but self made man who makes a pact with the Devil - he is to be allotted twenty-four years of life on Earth, during which time he will have Mephistopheles as his personal servant. At the end he will give his soul over to Lucifer as payment and spend the rest of time as one damned to Hell. Originally put to paper by the Shakespearean contemporary, Christopher Marlowe, and based on a German legend, the story has been re-written and re-interpreted countless times in plays, books, music, poems, puppet plays, etc.

And Mickle Maher deems himself worthy to add to the repertoire.

Well, I'm here to say that he is worthy.

Where to start?

Once again, the Chopin Theatre re-establishes itself as one of the truly authentic Off Loop theater venues of note. Upstairs Friday night was Hell in a Handbag's remount of Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical in all it's glitzy, fabulous glory; down below, in the cavernous Studio, was the polar opposite - an empty space, filled with chairs on either side of a long stretch, two chairs for the two actors, three lamps, and a door. As we waited for the house to open, I got to chat it up with Kerry Reid and Nina Metz, say hello to Guy Massey, HB Ward, Greg Allen - at one point, Kerry commented that if a bomb went off in the Chopin that night, a third of Chicago Off Loop theater would go with it.

And then we sit. And we look at each other - sitting across from other audience members creates a tension, a silent conspiracy, as we look over each other to see who has come tonight, who are we sharing the experience with? And then we notice David Shapiro sitting on the far side of the room, silent and unmoving. His presence, and lack of acknowledgement of us is a bit creepy and the tension mounts in tiny increments. And then Colm O'Reilly enters the space. And the play is afoot.

O'Reilly pulls off an amazing performance. Resembling a young Orson Welles in demeanor and quality, his Faustus is an irritated, whiny, arrogant - he explains to us that he is irritated and annoyed like so many others but that he has reasons. And we are there to hear them. Maher's play is at times maddeningly profound, silly, funny, angry, illogical, and as interpreted by the musical vocalizations of O'Reilly, completely mesmerizing. He sets us up and denies our expectation; he tells us of his mundane final day with the Prince of Lies at the foot of his bed; he rails and spits, composes himself and explains.

All the while, Shapiro sits. Calmly detached but remarkably aware of the irony of everything being said. His Mephistopheles says as much as O'Reilly's Faustus without uttering a syllable (although Faustus gives the character a distinctive quasi-Karloff vocalization that seems both ridiculous and completely believable - I'm not sure how he pulls this off, but he does.)

Another subtle but exceptional touch that O'Reilly brings to the proceedings is that he is very aware of the play going on above him - rumbling and bumping, the musical overhead manages to add a strange creepiness and is all due to O'Reilly's use of the accidental soundscape to inform pauses and looks above, as if these sounds are harbinger's of his own demise.

An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Dr. John Faustus on this His Final Evening owes its existence to Marlowe, Thomas Mann, the one man Mark Twain shows, Dostoevsky, and the genre of historical fiction that takes actual historical legends and places them in modern times. It is dense and thick, smarter than most, and sillier than you think it will be. And its funny. It will stick to the bones in your skull for a longer time than most plays and deserves your attention.

Do yourself a favor. Go see this and bring that friend of yours that simply has no use for fringe theater. This is one of those exceptional things that can make the doubter of storefront theater a convert.



Theater Review: An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Dr. John Fausus on this His Final Evening - J. H. Palmer, gapersblock.com 9/29/09

You couldn't find a better venue for Theater Oobleck's An Apology For the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening than the lower level of the Chopin Theatre. From the comfort of an anteroom filled with overstuffed chairs and eclectic art, the audience waits and watches for the door of the theatre - a huge thing on rollers, to rumble open revealing a spare set of two chairs placed at a distance of about fifteen feet, facing each other, and two hanging lamps lighting the actors - Colm O'Reilly in the role of John Faustus, and David Shapiro as his servant of twenty-four years, Mephistopheles. There are only four rows of seating, two on either side of the set, limiting the choice of where to spend the next ninety minutes of your life to either: close to the stage, or even closer.

With none of the muffled anonymity of hiding behind rows of theater-goers, you and your fellow patrons become part of the play itself, causing both discomfort and a sense of common purpose and witness to O'Reilly's masterful turn as the man who sold his soul to the devil. From my seat (I was in the even closer section) I could see the sweat on the actor's brow, and the bright orange tag stapled to the cuff of his suit pants - an homage to the Village Discount Outlet, that great repository of affordable costuming. Something in his manner reminded me of Peter Lorre circa M, made stronger by Faustus' reminiscence of the alphabet, a thing he hasn't used in the twenty-four years since he made a pact with Mephistopheles: "My hand, my whole arm, misses those blobby 'O's, those languorous 'S's. The thrusting peaks of 'M'."

The distinct rumbling of the Blue Line passing through its underground burrow mixed with sounds emanating from a different production in progress upstairs add to the sense of underworld-ness that is central to the piece. There really was no need to make the pre-show announcement about turning cell phones off, as there's no chance of getting a signal in this cavern.

O'Reilly immediately puts the audience at ease with his mastery of the part, easily overcoming what could become a very squirmy and distressing experience in lesser hands. Shapiro's command of Mephistopheles is not to be overlooked - he has no speaking lines, but must endure a diatribe that rivals anything doled out to an umpire, without once breaking his composed equilibrium.

Mickle Maher's text is a delight to hear out loud, and contains lines that would make apt fortunes at a Chinese restaurant of the absurd. Imagine yourself opening a cookie after a satisfying meal to read: "Be happy with the world that spills from your hump."

An Apology is being performed on Fridays and Saturdays, September 25th through October 24th at 8pm at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division. Tickets are $12 or pay-what-you-can -- and, as ever, free if you're broke. And if that's not enough to get you there, there's also free beer and potato chips.

Author
Mickel Maher

Director
Mickel Maher

Performers

Colm O'Reilly
David Shapiro

Tags: Theater, American, Old Europe, 2009