Review: Jack-of-all-trades Faust explores a world of masks

By Posted in - Reviews on March 25th, 2013 0 Comments

Masks are usually thought of as something that hide and conceal.

For Rob Faust, the opposite is true.

Faust, a mask maker, actor, dancer and comic, proved it Friday during a 75-minute mock lecture-demonstration that had the audience laughing, thrilled, frightened and intrigued.

Faust, who years ago appeared with Pilobolus Dance Theatre, donned nearly two dozen masks, transforming himself into myriad characters: a wise guy, a shy guy, a nasty guy, an alien, a monster, a martial artist, an evangelist, a hippie, Elvis and a bunch of fantastic animal-like creatures.

The homey, interactive show began with a friend, “Walter”, wearing a coat and cap, introducing Faust. He disappeared behind a 10-foot wall on which masks made of paper, ceramics, wood and leather were displayed.

Seconds later, from behind the wall, out popped a smiling, lithe Faust, wearing all black, who quickly let the crowd in on the joke – he’s Walter.

Faust started his “lecture” noting that masks are magical objects that have the power to transform people. The need to be transformed, he said, is something all people seek. It sounds hokey, but in moments audience members were sucked in, becoming true believers in the force of masks.

The most difficult mask, according to Faust, is the universal mask, which represents “everyone at the same time.” He first put on the neutral toned mask whose features demonstrated no expression.

What a contrast to the flurry of folks who followed.

The masks, of course, weren’t the only thing that created the characters. Faust’s precise body movements perfectly accompanied the mask’s expressions.

Yet in one amazing segment, Faust wore the same fierce-faced mask but eveolved from a strutting tough guy into a humble soul by subtly changing his posture and movement.

At no point did the show segue into precious mime. In fact, what kept the performance fueled was Faust’s hilarious speechmaking.

His swishy French guy in a beret got the audience going in a discussion about materials used in making masks. A tough pot-bellied sports coach in a baseball cap was a mean jerk. His televangical faith healer was as slimy as seen on the tube. As Elvis, he admonished the crowd for its pathetic sing-along on “All Shook Up.”

His animals crept and jumped, even slithered. One reptilian creature ended up on the lap of a person in the audience.

In one of the most phenomenal bits, Faust wore a mask on top of his head and put his face down. At the same time, he got his body down on all fours like a monkey. The overall effect was that of a fanciful creature whose head appeared to be floating out in front of its body.

Instead of intermission, Faust led the audience in a quick stretching exercise.
Then came the most awesome transformation of the evening. He told the engrossing story of a pleasant childhood in New Orleans and a black woman named Margie Tucker who more or less raised him and who instilled in him a love of R&B music and a love of life.

As he told the tale, he pulled out of a trunk a put on a rounded, stuffed body suit, then wrapped himself in a dress and jacket that Margie would have worn. Finally, in a sublimely tender moment, he became her, donning a huge head with the most contented grin imaginable and dancing to Solomon Burke’s “Cry to Me.”

Leslie Katz, The Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California

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