by Christopher Marlowe
directed by Claudia Bach
Set in a modern, internet-forum world, Faustus connects with some dangerous minds online and is dragged into a world of conspiracy, magic, and evil. After making a deal with a servant of Hell to unlock the truth and powers of the world, Faustus gets more than he bargained for when his payment comes due. On a backdrop of reddit, Qanon, and internet indoctrination, this production explores what it means to access the truth and to confront reality, whatever it may be.
Performances LIVE on Friday May 21 and Saturday May 22, 2021 at 8pm EDT at youtube.com/c/TheRudeMechanicals
BE ADVISED: This performance includes moments of flashing imagery.
Doctor Faustus, a German scholar, is fed up with his traditional academic studies for not giving him the real answers he seeks. He connects with some dubious scholars, Valdes and Cornelius, for a way to summon a servant of Lucifer to do his bidding and unlock the real secrets of the universe. Within his own head, a Good and Evil Angel war against each other for Faustus’ soul.
Turning to the online world, Faustus tries to summon a demon, and receives a visit from an appearance of Mephistopheles. Faustus demands he change his shape, and a new version of Mephistopheles takes his place. Faustus offers his soul for twenty-four hours of ultimate power and knowledge.
With the deal done, Faustus demands answers from Mephistopheles, but no matter which version he deals with, he will give no answers on God or Heaven, angering Faustus. Mephistopheles tries to distract him instead by offering him fun and earthly delights.
Faustus considers repentance, and Lucifer himself appears to entertain Faustus, presenting forms of the Seven Deadly Sins.
They visit Rome and the Pope and play pranks on him and his Cardinal. The perform tricks and illusions for scholars and men, and attract the attention of the Emperor, though his Knight remains skeptical. Faustus begins tormenting even lower class citizens, like the Horse-Courser, and begins to have a crisis of identity over just what he has sold his soul for.
An Old Man, perhaps the voice of Faustus’ Good Angel incarnate, warns Faustus one last time to repent, but Faustus believes himself too far gone and prepares to accept his fate.
Lucifer and all Mephistopheles arrive to collect Faustus’ debt and bring him into their Hell at last.
With a full year now to reflect on isolation and digital connection, the project of a modern, digital Doctor Faustus arose very naturally. But it wasn’t until the January 6 riots on the US Capitol that it all came together. Faustus is a man who is deeply frustrated and is desperate for any voice that offers him ultimate hidden truth, regardless if it goes everything that he knows to be good. This sounds very familiar to me, as one who reads stories of internet indoctrination of alt-right Americans feeding off the conspiracy theories from Qanon, reddit, and facebook. A nudge in the wrong direction, the promise of revealed secrets, and Faustus, like too many people, is willing to forsake all divinity. And that nudge isn’t from one leader necessarily, but a panoply of commenters, conspiracy theorists, and retweeters creating a vast echo chamber.
In order to really capture that idea of many voices, it became quickly clear that Mephistopheles should be played by many actors. It’s Faustus himself who suggests that Mephistopheles change his shape to be more appealing – and so he keeps doing, continually offering Faustus something new, some new angle, some new supposed truth.
Our cast does a fantastic job sharing this role, each providing their own take on their incarnation while creating a cohesive voice. And together with them, Faustus takes our “hero” on a journey from hopeful academic to irredeemable radicalized puppet, as we have seen happen to so many.
It is my hope that those watching this production can enjoy a modern take on the classic tale of a deal with the devil while considering the contemporary implications of collective conspiracy.
|Doctor Faustus||Bill Bodie|
|Stage Manager||Erin Nealer|
|Technical Director||Jeff Poretsky|
|Costumer||Tiffany M. Waters|