Independent Shakespeare Presents Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Doctor Faustus’

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Shakespeare isn’t the only great English author celebrating a 450th birthday this year…

My first experience years ago with Christopher Marlowe was being cast in a minor role as an adapted version of the character Calyphas in Tamburlaine the Great (I played a lot of boys back then.)

It was during that time that I really became infatuated with the muscularity of words and the infinite, emotionally resonant power of sound.

Since then, Marlowe has held a light fascination as predecessor, contemporary and great influencer of Will Shakespeare’s work which eventually, of course, departed from Marlowe’s even, iambic pentameter, and into an exciting broken poetic line.

Christopher Marlowe was a revolutionary author. He died under mysterious circumstances at just 29 years old but he left behind a handful of plays that changed the course of English Theater.

Doctor Faustus is Christopher Marlowe’s tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil and spends the next 25 years getting everything his heart desires…only to find it wasn’t what he wanted after all. It’s a potently, ambitious, sexy play, whose cast of characters include angels, emperors, the Seven Deadly Sins, Helen of Troy, and the Pope.  Faustus himself is eloquent, arrogant, self-serving, occasionally obtuse and yet a very likeable, sympathetic (doomed) hero.

I don’t profess to be an expert on classical theatre by any means, but as an audience member, I do always expect to understand what is going on during any production. And in a language play, I’m much more critical because it takes such effort for our modern ears and sensibilities to do so. #TalkThisWay

This Doctor Faustus by Independent Shakespeare is very good by all measure.  It didn’t come across as some weirdly half-baked high school production and I actually learned something about the human condition.

When Doctor Faustus was produced in the Renaissance, used was the most advanced Elizabethan stagecraft. Independent Shakespeare was inspired to carry on that tradition with its own version of spectacle by employing projections, videotape and live music to amplify the shifts and turns of this play, which swings between the tragic, the fantastical and the wildly funny.  As it turns out, it worked much more than adequately.

The story, the language, is delivered crystal clear, which maybe we can blame on the text itself. But I would propose by the exceptional talents of the cast: Sam Breen, Matthew Callahan, Devereau Chumrau, Suzan Crowley, Lexie Helgerson, Ashley Nguyen, André Martin and Adam Mondschein and the unparalleled antics of Mephistopheles (masterfully underplayed by Suzan Crowley) and Faustus (played brilliantly by Adam Mondschein). The story is enhanced and prime delivered but for some technical difficulties and a bit of trivial direction.

Most worth a small commitment to this piece is in the end, the poetic line, thankfully, wonderfully accessible and absolutely impactful in every way.

Written by Christopher Marlowe
Directed by Melissa Chalsma
Cast: Sam Breen, Matthew Callahan, Devereau Chumrau, Suzan Crowley, Lexie Helgerson, Ashley Nguyen, André Martin and Adam Mondschein.

This production may not be suitable for younger viewers.

Photo (above) by:  Mike Ditz

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