Classics are always fun for me. Adapted classics are, quite honestly, not always so much fun.
The Archway Theatre’s interpretation and adaptation of Christoper Marlow’s final masterpiece is, however, regardless of the grimness of the subject matter, undoubtedly an awful lot of classical and devilish fun.
We all know the story. Faustus, a learned and well-thought-of man, who came from nothing, sells his soul to the devil for 24 years of basically whatever he wants. The trouble is, he already had pretty much whatever he wanted before the deal. He was wealthy, attractive and brilliant. He had the world at his feet so to speak. But, like many who have everything, he wanted more and the devil was more than willing to bargain with whatever he desired for his soul eternal. The caveat, of course, being that he must also corrupt others along the way, but Faustus hardly seems to mind that addendum.
And so he runs through his 24 years at quite a pace, raping, swindling, manipulating and becoming more and more debauched, pushing the limits of humanity. All this in the company of a devil Mephistopheles and the horrible seven sins, brilliantly depicted as vile female devils all sneakily emboldening and goading Faustus on. It’s all very creepy and unholy, which is, of course, the point.
I really couldn’t think of a better place to stage this particular play than a library that was once a chapel at a university at the base of a mountain.
The combined atmosphere of learning and worship is perfect, the words and twisted emotions bounce off the walls and the beautiful, ecclesiastically high ceilings. The production is ambitious and bold. This is a hell of a play, pun intended. It requires a good deal of energy and nerve to put on and this production has those in bucket loads.
Faustus has to be one of the biggest roles in the classical bastion. This play is not only centered around Faustus, but he is on stage for every scene and has a huge curve of emotion and tragedy, while still ultimately being at fault for his own terrible end. And yet there are some small openings for sympathy in his story I suppose. He falls for the classic human longing…knowledge. He trades his soul for the mysteries of the universe, and so he is made to do terrible things in order to understand the terribleness of it all. To feel and to take part in the basest of human kind’s depths in order to truly know them…perhaps not what he had in mind when he made the deal.
It’s typical of course that he regrets his deal at the very last when faced with the horrors of the damned. He calls out to God and for once he is left unanswered…justice I suppose. But whatever it is it makes for some amazing theatre. This play also gives opportunities for actors to go deep and go low, which is always so satisfying to watch.
The Archway players do not disappoint. They are absolutely committed and with a play this big you really have to be. They are all fantastic and leave nothing to chance. Each and every twist, turn, heartbreak and hallucination are met with fearlessness and poise. Faustus is played by Eric Castro. Usually I do not single out roles and actors but in this case, I feel I must. He was mesmerizing. This is a huge role and Faustus is not a likable guy, which is tough to play. Yet Mr Castro gave him heart, at least heart enough to hate, and soul…at least for as long as the length of the play!
I highly recommend that you gird your loins and see this play.
It’s not something that is performed very often, which is such a shame as it’s so pivotal in the annals of drama. The string is impeccable, artful and beautiful, the direction masterful. This is not a long run, so please get a move on and get along to the stunning library at The Woodberry University in Burbank. Bring your crucifix…or your rosary…your holy water, whatever you have handy…you may need it.
Running from June 29 - July 14, 8pm Friday & Saturday.
The Woodbury University Library, 7500 N Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, CA 91504
Eric Castro, Benjamin Crammer, Abigail Hunt, Masi Hasher, Alex G-Smith, Ari Agbabian, John Eddings, Annie Freeman Sabel, Isabel Fuzaro, Emlee Vassilos, Clare Lahey, Angie Dobson Robbins, Mishelle Fuentes, Nj Ambomisye.