Review: ‘Tragical History of Doctor Faustus’ at Clifton’s Got Drama

Ever hear the term “Faustian Bargain”? Well – this is the origin of the story.

Plunge the depths of the human soul. Explore morality through a Victorian lens – presented in a contemporary style. Come see just what it means to ‘Deal with the Devil’.

Presented by the Clifton Art’s Council – Clifton’ Got Drama, as it would have been in Marlowe’s day in the round, in small intimate venues with the audience never far from the action – Director Dr. Harry J. Kantrovich’s production is riveting. This powerhouse cast brings Marlowe’s tale of good and evil to life right before your eyes – and it’ll have you talking long after the car ride home. You don’t want to miss this one!

Alexia Poe (Mephistophilis) and Eric Trumbull (Faustus). Photo courtesy of Clifton Does Drama.
Alexia Poe (Mephistophilis) and Eric Trumbull (Faustus). Photo courtesy of Clifton’s Got Drama..

The play opens with an introduction by Faustus’ Man Servant Wagner (Mickey Butler) on Faustus’ study, which consists of piles of books, boxes filled with paper and a clearly frustrated Faustus (Eric Trumbull) who throws the books everywhere, clearly not finding any satisfaction from their contents.

Throughout his struggle between his life of law and religion or the dark arts of magic his conscience brings forward his Good Angel (Dell Pendergrast) and Evil Angel (Herb Tax) to persuade him in one direction or the other. Upon deciding magic is his calling, he summons his good friend Valdes (Pendergrast) to teach him the art.  Discovering he needs a better understanding of the world that cannot be acquired from human knowledge, he summons Mephistophilis (Alexia Poe) and asks her to strike a deal with the devil (David Berkenbilt) for 24 years of power and knowledge and in return he will give Lucifer his soul. After the bargain is set in blood, the escapades begin.

Trumbull is compelling as Faustus as he transforms from the scholarly doctor who evolves into a disheveled and lost soul. The transformation is evident in his continued visitations with the Angels, his protégé and scholar (Butler) and a rendezvous with the Pope (Tax). Finally an Old Man (Tax) begs with Faustus to repent to no avail.

There is one scene, believed to be put Marlowe to break up the tense moments of the production. Wagner encounters a poor clown (Pendergrast) who is so hungry he would sell his soul for some mutton. After some word play and an encounter with Lucifer, the clown agrees to become Wagner’s servant for 7 years.

One of the stand-out scenes is when Faustus is introduced to the seven deadly sins (all played by Poe). These characters are surreal and her talents shine as she provides different characterizations to them all. This scene is almost a show in itself, not too dissimilar to something you would find in a Tim Burton film.

The show, portrayed with minimal sets, contemporary clothing, and six actors playing all roles keeps, the audience, on the edge of their seats the entire production. The audience can sense the tension building from the introduction to the final heart wrenching scene of Faustus’ struggle of Christ and the Devil. Add this into one magical cauldron, and the Tragical History of Doctor Faustus gets a solid recommendation.

Herb Tax, Mickey Butler, Eric Trumbull, Alexia Poe, David Berkenbilt, and Dell Pendergrast. Photo courtesy of Clifton Does Drama.
Herb Tax, Mickey Butler, Eric Trumbull, Alexia Poe, David Berkenbilt, and Dell Pendergrast. Photo courtesy of Clifton Does Drama.

Running Time: 70 minutes with no intermission.

Tragical History of Doctor Faustus ended its run yesterday, July 17, 2016 at Clifton Town Hall – 12641 Chapel Road, in Clifton, VA. For future shows, check their facebook page.

The review is by Guest Reviewer Roxan DeLeo.


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