The legendary darkness of Faust’s deal with Satan and his minions gets a Looney Tunes–like commedia dell’arte spin in Vít Horejš’s uneven adaptation of the marionette play Johannes Dokchort Faust. Perhaps the vicissitudes in Horejš’s work are inherent to the original, but as scenes familiar from Marlowe or Goethe are interspersed with comedic sequences featuring the harlequin-like Pimprle, it’s difficult not to feel a sense of tonal whiplash. Horejš’s introduction of anachronisms (Craigslist, for instance) instills a further sense of schizophrenia, and it’s hard to tell whether you’re watching something too intelligent for kids or too inane for adults.
What will capture young and old alike are the puppets that appear on the beautifully conceived miniature stage. Particularly impressive are the primary Mephistopheles puppet, 100 years old and 26 inches high; the Pimprle (a dunce-capped pig); and the re-creation of a Czech-American Faust puppet from over a century ago. The show’s five performers manipulate and give voice to these creations and others with varying success, but though their work frequently charms, it’s not enough to balance this devilishly uneven endeavor.