Review: Resonants’ “The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus”

The Resonants Exhibit the Pageantry of Hell in “The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus”

The Resonants have overreached themselves with this production of The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe.  Director Dan Krall has a special affection for the material, yet he possesses too little directorial experience and too young and raw of a cast to pull off Elizabethan drama. Many of the actors fail to project and articulate their parts. Some changes between scenes are too rudimentarily staged to provide a cohesive arc to the production. Thankfully, a few bright embers shine out.

faustus press picClaire Alden has the strength of stage presence to pull off her cool, jaded, and sagacious Mephistopheles. Galen Murphy-Hoffman delivers an equally sleek and menacing Lucifer, and is great fun, both as the Emperor, with his George W. Bush impression, and a bumbling Pope. Both Avery Armour and Atra Asdou form a charmingly convincing con-artist team as Wagner and Valdes. Nathan Hicks has delightful moments as Robin the Clown. One can only wonder what further comedy improv training could elicit, both for him and for all of Faustus’ comedic moments.

Special mention should be made of the set design, which, despite a kind of spare industrial 80s flavor, still manages to evoke malevolent grandeur through the use of floor-to-ceiling black drapes precisely accented with large red tasseled cords. Even the red-light cross, hung upon the right wall, suggests a presence of evil rather than a source of spiritual comfort on stage.

If anything, it’s the visual storytelling of the production that succeeds in expressing the Elizabethan penchant for pageantry as part of stagecraft. The most evocative moment comes at the end, when the cast executes the horror of Dr. Faustus being dragged down into Hell with all its dark magnificence.

What is most sorely lacking is a strong lead. Nate Burger’s Dr. Faustus is a geeky academic, dipping his toe into monumental choices he can barely realize the ramifications of, until it is too late. He hardly seems the Renaissance ideal of a master of knowledge, which was the hallmark of the age. It is not quite clear that this is a dramatic choice rather than an actor simply struggling to the fill out the part.

Burger’s struggles are just one sign of a production that is out of its depth. This may be the moment that a young company needs to reassess its strengths and its deficiencies, in order to put on works that serve to expand its capabilities. There is enough promise here to encourage such an effort.

Rating: «

The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus
City Lit Theater
1020 W. Bryn Mawr

Runs thought July 12th
Price:$10-$15
for tickets, call886-811-4111
www.theresonants.org