Play review: “Doctor Faustus”

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The theatre department brought Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe to life Sept. 11 through vibrant expressions, costumes and a lively portrayal of the characters. The play is an Elizabethan tragedy sprinkled with just the right amount of comedy, and the department captured this blend perfectly. The audience was entranced by the actors who played their roles using plenty of witty quips and lavish charm. The talents in this laugh out loud production created a suspenseful and memorable performance of this classic tale.

The play follows the character of Doctor Faustus, who tries to quench his insatiable thirst for knowledge through the dark arts of necromancy. He conjures the demon Mephistopheles, and in exchange for limitless power and the demon’s servitude, barters his soul to Lucifer. Hilarity ensues as Faustus and Mephistopheles play mischievous pranks on others, all building to the dramatic climax of Faustus realizing the devil will come for him.

The production was the “President’s Choice Show” for the year. This tradition is when President Holland selects a classical play for the company to perform, kicking off the theatre season. Doctor Faustus was co-produced with the Grassroots Shakespeare Company, who are known for portraying the play in Elizabethan and Shakespearean style.

A unique feature of the play was actors constantly breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience. They would prompt the crowd to ask questions or shout statements, and the actors would respond to them. Audience participation added a fun twist and allowed everyone to feel as if they were a part of it.

In this style of theatre, many actors faced the challenge of portraying several characters. “In order to visually execute the differentiation between so many diverse characters, we had specific costume designs that would quickly communicate to the audience that a new character was being presented by the same actor. In one moment, an actor could be dressed as a friar in a brown robe with an old gray beard, and the next be portraying Helen of Troy in a silk gown,” director Angela Nibley said. According to Nibley, they coordinated with designer Ash Knowles and other stagehands to make the character transitions recognizable and seamless.

Doctor Faustus was the largest project Nibley has taken on, and she fulfilled that task brilliantly. The actors also successfully rose up to meet the challenges of playing several different characters and mastering quick changes with only four weeks of rehearsal.

“I think the thing I loved most was playing 6 different characters. I’ve never done that before, and it is so hard because just a costume piece changes who your character is in grassroots style. … I really had to flesh out each character, their physicality’s, mannerisms, and voices,” actor Brennan Newkirk said “It is very hard and very exhausting going from one character to another in the matter of seconds. Behind the scenes changing from one costume to another, you get no time to breathe. It is exhilarating and very worth it in the end.”