Doctor Faustus

By Christopher Marlowe
Directed by Jeff Dailey
The Marlowe Project
The Producers' Club
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

The strength and weakness of this production was that it did as much as possible with the absolutely minimum resources: a cast of eight, no real set, lights that popped on and off without much apparent benefit of dimmers, and costumes that could serve well on Halloween. (The story concerns a learned Renaissance student of law, medicine, and religion who decides to delve into black magic, which leads him to summon the Devil's righthand demon Mephistophelis, who makes him sign over his soul.)

The strength of the approach was its freshness, which emphasized the comedy in the piece. Bye the bye, Marlowe's poetry worked to set the verbal stage in a manner beyond the mere physical means of the producer. The weakness was that the visits from hell's demons and human inhabitants weren't threatening, so the sight of the title character losing his courage and praying to God to get him out of his contract with the Devil had little chance of stirring emotions of pity or terror. Sometimes, indeed, the moments that should have been most terrible stirred titters instead.

Along the way, though, everyone had jolly good fun with the scenes of conjuring and necromancy, not to mention the opportunity to play multiple roles. Noteworthy were Greg Contreras as Mephistophilis and Robert Evanila as Faustus, the two of whom bore the brunt of the dialog. Thirty-three (count 'em!) characters were played by Tom Bigongiari, Michael Rigby, Kirsten Anderson, Irsi Bar-Ziv, Bart Shattuck, and Blaise James. Especially funny was the scene where Faustus and Mephistophelis, invisible, torment the Pope and his cronies during a feast, throwing food around and emptying cups of wine on their unsuspecting hosts' heads. The overall level of acting in the ensemble was more enthusiastic than subtle, but it hit the spot.

The telling of this tall tale moved along at a good clip (90 minutes without intermission), a credit to Marlowe's dramaturgy and Jeff Dailey's directing. It would be interesting to see what Mr. Dailey could do in a future project with more resources. (More subtle lighting, and the use of flashpots and a fog machine, could have worked wonders here.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 1998 John Chatterton