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Václav Havel's take on Faust becomes a metaphor for his mistrust of dogma

Wednesday, Apr 13 2005
Conceived in the early 1980s while its author served time in prison for his political views, Václav Havel's Temptation manipulates the legend of Faust into a metaphor for the writer's mistrust of dogma and absolutism. The play centers on one Dr. Henry Foustka (Daveed Diggs), who works as a scientist at a government-funded institute by day and dabbles in the occult by night. When a strange cripple, Fistula (Dawn Scott), hobbles up to Foustka's house one evening offering to enhance the scientist's knowledge and power, Foustka tries in vain to resist the overtures but eventually succumbs to their appeal. Unfortunately for Foustka, the visitor turns out to be not quite what she seems. According to Charles Marowitz, who directed a production of Temptation at the Czech Republic's National Theater in 2004, Havel wrote the play in just 10 feverish days. It shows: Temptation is packed with unwieldy abstractions and dialogue so convoluted with clauses that even in translation, it's impossible at times to understand what the characters are saying. The inventive members of the Custom Made Theatre Company wrestle bravely with Havel's boa constrictor syntaxes, but superimposing yet another layer of meaning -- the hard-line tenets of the current U.S. administration -- upon the playwright's already heavy-handed interpolation of Faust further suffocates the flow.

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Chloe Veltman


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