Doctor Faustus

“Faustus shall never repent” the titular character states brazenly – almost convincing himself, but with tears in his eyes. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus may be the archetypaltale of “selling your soul to the Devil” and regretting the consequences but, far from falling into tired expectations, directors Alexander Gillespie and Bennett Bonci here offer a brilliantly refreshing interpretation. Their decision to opt for a promenade performance, for example, effectively thrusts the audience into the role of witnesses to Faustus’ existential agony – helpless to save the doctor from himself and forced to keep vigil through his rise and downfall.

Their decision to opt for a promenade performance, for example, effectively thrusts the audience into the role of witnesses to Faustus’ existential agony

Noah LiebmillerembodiesFaustus’s sparkling recklessness; despite his fortune in intellect and self-made status, he yearns so desperately for a philosophical battle of wits that he invites devils to be his combatants. Liebmiller faces off most spectacularly with the devil Mephistophilis (a masked Jared Liebmiller), who is nevertheless wary of encouraging Faustus’s self damnation; the devil’s foreboding and wise reluctance in perfect symmetry with the doctor’s eager rashness.

There are dozens of smaller roles in Doctor Faustus, played here by a cast of thirteen actors, many of whom verge on stealing the show. Particular standouts are Phoebe Soulon as the Evil Angel, whose gleeful teasing urges Faustus along, and Jack Briggs as the preening and self-satisfied Lucifer. Equally impressive are the comic relief duo of Becca Schwarz and Jemima Tyssen Smith who, as the clowns Robin and Dick, toy with magic and foreshadow the undignified pranks that Faustus himself degenerates into performing.

Bonci and Gillespie should also be commended for taking advantage of one particular aspect of their casting, which adds immeasurably to a perfectly poetic conclusion: underscoring how Faustus, too late consumed with regret, should be the same as the fallen angel Mephistopheles.

While retaining Marlowe’s Elizabethan text, directors Gillespie and Bonci opt for a contemporary presentation; interwoven into the story are acapella versions of modern songs which disturbingly fit all too well. These, along with cheeky videos including pop culture references, perfectly suggest that, while from Faustus’s perspective this story is his own, for the devils it’s an eternal tale in which only the faces and names change. Anyone, any time, can damn themselves. 

Reviews by Ali Schultz

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The Blurb

An academic sells his soul to the devil in exchange for a life of magic. Torn between repentence and the permanence of his actions, Faustus struggles with morality, theology, and death. Using the combined Club 601 venue, this production creates a promenade theatre experience combining renaissance drama with a modern set and postmodern theatrical techniques.

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