‘The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus’ impresses audience
“The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus” was brought to life on the Lyman Center stage, highlighting one man’s struggle between heaven and hell.
Southern’s Theatre Department and the Crescent Players came together to show Christopher Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus.” The play was directed by Rebecca Goodheart, who is the producing artistic director of Elm Shakespeare Company in New Haven.
Michael Shea, the chair of the English department, who teaches courses on the theatre of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, including Marlowe, was on the panel where they discussed the production with the audience after opening night.
“It was just a discussion about this particular production and how people saw certain issues, like how the staging was done, and there’s a lot of really excellent sound production, and visual projections of video,” said Shea.
The Lyman Center, which usually seats 1,500, was set up differently, creating a much smaller stage, with a smaller audience. Hannah Dustin, a music major, said she liked how they flipped the stage around.
“I think it made it more personal, like it was more interactive. Like when he was giving the cup to the people in the front, it made it more personal,” said Dustin.
Dustin also said she thought that the lighting and video projections brought the play to life, comparing these effects to virtual reality goggles.
With the lighting, video projections, acting, and several other elements bringing the play to life, Shea said this play, which touches on dark magic, is fitting, because theater itself has a magic to it.
“You have the suspension of the actors being who they really are played as roles, and you kind of believe those roles,” said Shea “and so the whole notion of a play about magic is interesting because plays themselves have kind of a magical quality to them.”
The audience said they were impressed with the acting and how much it added to the allusion of the the production. Specifically mentioned was Matthew Iannantuoni, who played Dr. Faustus, and Sasha Mahmoud, who played Mephistopilis. Elena Lofgrin, a sociology major, said she was most impressed by Mahmoud’s acting.
“The one who played Metastophilis, I just liked the way she carried her body, it was very rigid and it kind of like showed how she’s a demon,” said Lofgrin.
During the panel, Shea said they discussed the play’s relevance in the world today regarding the human conscience and morals.
“We were talking about the sort of continuing struggle that humans have with how much how much are you willing to sacrifice,” said Shea “and if you don’t believe in a soul, how much are you willing to sacrifice your conscience to do a wrong thing in order to have worldly gains, and are they worth it?”
Cameron Rho, a computer science major, also said it was interesting to see a play that was first performed in 1592, still have relevance.
“I thought it was really interesting to see how an older play could apply to the same kind of themes we see in society today,” said Rho.
Dr. Faustus, who makes a deal with Lucifer, in which he gives his soul in exchange for 24 years of service from Mephostopilis, a demon who has already been. At first Faustus enjoys his new powers, but as time passes and his impending doom comes closer, he finds himself wanting to beg for mercy, but it is too late. Considering Faustus remains in hell at the end, Shea said the play suggests his sacrifice was not worth it.
“At the end Faustus is damned, yet through the course of the play he never has anything,” said Shea. “He gets what he wants, but what he wants doesn’t seem satisfying to him in the course in the play as it did when he thought about it at the beginning.”
Photo Credit: Isabel Chenoweth