Sunday, October 26, 2014

Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus at ISC

The language of Elizabethan times most familiar to us through the epic plays of Shakespeare captures essential English speech: iambic pentameter. It is easy. It’s  lyrical and at once familiar and arcane.  Melissa Chalsma’s direction of Doctor Faustus flows like quick silver with a talented cast doubling, tripling and multitasking like anything through the basic story of one man’s lust for power at the price of his own soul.   As Faustus, Adam Mondschein finds the groove of the language and runs with it.  Each of the ensemble members reflects the voice of training that has been a signature for the Independent Shakespeare Company.  This is a stage play.  It’s theatrical. Simply, it works

The entire ISC production under Chalsma’s precision guidance, (she adapted the script as well from two different versions of Marlowe’s play) understands not only the language, but in the company’s rough hewn stage on Casitas, makes beautiful use of the space.  It is this dedication to the play itself, not being restricted by the tiny area and limited tech (though the lighting by Bosco Flannagan and uncredited projections are just fine) that bring Marlowe’s text to life. 

Mondschein shines as the power obsessed German doctor who uses arcane magic to conjure Mephistopheles, the gorgeous and talented Suzan Crowley. Crowley brings her full bag of tricks as an actor.  With some features that favor Katherine Hepburn, her mane of auburn hair frames a benign face that speaks evil truths about being damned to Hell while seducing the eager doctor. Her command of the language is arresting.   Only Mondschein and Crowley remain consistent in their roles while the rest of the cast soldiers on as a well tuned ensemble.  Outstanding Ashley Nguyen as The Evil Angel and half a dozen other characters, tempts Faustus to stay true to his bargain with The Dark One.  Like a cartoon image of a little angel on the other shoulder, Sam Breen brings light as the Good Angel. Lexie Helgerson as both malevolent Lucifer and Helen of Troy as well as a very lusty Lust is, simply, hot! 
Faustus is given the gift of invisibility and bedevils Andrè Martin as The Pope, reflecting perhaps,  Marlowe’s contempt for religion.  Matt Callahan as Robin has a moment with his bladder and a bucket.  Each character in the doubling is crisp and well executed. The social commentary and the morality tale come together well.  The language, though not always easy to follow, flows beautifully.   
This fine ensemble, also well known for their free productions of Shakespeare in Griffith Park makes Elizabethan Theatre accessible.  The actors play as a unit, sharing the stage and creating their world in a tiny, but serviceable space.  Director Chalsma’s stage pictures are beautiful.

The lobby is a hallway with a TV tray as the box office.  No frills, just excellent theatre.  For an evening of professional acting and a story well told, don’t miss Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus at the Independent Shakespeare Company.  Bring a pillow.

DOCTOR FAUSTUS by Christopher Marlowe
Directed by Melissa Chalsma
Independent Shakespeare Company
3191 Casitas Ave. #168
Los Angeles, California 90039
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30PM
Sundays at 2PM
Through November 23, 2014
Tickets and Information
818 710 6306

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