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Doctor Faust
a Drama
by Aaron Gotlieb, adapted from Marlowe and Goethe

COMPANY : Theatre Arts Guild
VENUE : Georgia Perimeter College - Marvin Cole Auditorium
ID# 4985

SHOWING : October 28, 2016 - November 06, 2016



This retelling of the original “Deal with the Devil” is based on the works of Marlowe and Goethe, combining them into a compelling new story of ambition and self-destruction.

Director Aaron Gotlieb
Mephistopheles Parris Sarter
Doctor Faust Kirill Sheynerman
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Trippingly on the Tongue
by playgoer
Sunday, November 6, 2016
I don’t know how to rate Theatre Arts Guild’s production of "Doctor Faust." How do you rate something when it is thoroughly professional in technical terms, concept, and direction, but is performed by an ensemble obviously in over their heads? In this dialogue-rich play, everyone manages to speed through their lines apace, but only the three leads and one ensemble member can reliably be understood. The other ensemble members lack either the volume or enunciation to consistently get their lines across clearly. Their zombie-like poses are terrific, but the poses too often take the place of reactions to the dialogue or situations. It’s a shame.

Lizz Dorsey’s set is stunning, consisting of a raked stage with a circular platform up left and four wide pillars, the middle two forming a "V." The pillars are subtly textured and used occasionally for projections that complement Ben Rawson’s excellent and atmospheric lighting design. The whole thing is backed by a partially obscured backdrop that appears to have been recycled from the 2011 production of "Ghosts." Adding to the visual appeal are Nancye Quarles Hilley’s costumes and Sara Lynn Herman’s props, impressive both in their quality and quantity.

In auditory terms, the design elements are also totally professional. Kevin MacLeod’s music sounds fantastic in the sound system designed by Jillian Haughey and director Aaron Gotlieb. No personal microphones are used in the large auditorium. This may not be strictly professional, since over-amplification seems to be the trend in professional productions, but I find it highly laudable. The ensemble may not be up to the demands of projection in a large auditorium, but they obviously have been coached to come as close as they are currently able.

Four people in the cast are distinctly audible at all times: Kirill Sheynerman as Doctor Faust, Parris Sarter as Mephistopheles, Jillian Haughey as Gretchen/Helen of Troy, and Anna Spencer as Lust. (The seven ensemble members are named after the seven deadly sins and play various roles; for Ms. Spencer, the main role is as the pope). The only person I could almost never understand is Breana Jarrells (Sloth), probably due to the tremendous speed of her speech. All the ensemble are given choreographed movements, particularly during scene transitions, and they excel at the physical aspects of the roles. Aside from Ms. Spencer and Ms. Jarrells, they are Naheem Mitchell (Pride), Daniel Moody (Greed), Daniel Castro (Wrath), Kendra Gilbert (Envy), and Jamaica N. Owens (Gluttony). Most cross gender at one point or another to play their roles, many of which are quite brief.

Acting of the principals is vocally quite good, but only Parris Sarter seems to be fully committed to her role throughout the course of the evening. Ms. Haughey is perhaps not physically suited to embody Helen of Troy, and she seems somewhat reserved as Gretchen until she gets to her mad/death scene in prison, when she blows away any reserve with an intense performance. Mr. Sheynerman never seems to feel fully comfortable in Doctor Faust’s shoes, seeming to be preoccupied by remembering his lines and uneasy in his interactions with the non-professional student performers of the ensemble. He underplays most moments of his character’s arc, when a large, theatrical performance would be more in keeping with the sensibility of the director’s conception.

This production is stunning in conception, but somewhat overlong and dry in its action. The man directly behind me in the audience was sleeping and close to snoring as the first act extended past an hour. Action picks up greatly in the second act, and a couple of coups-de-théâtre really spark the proceedings. The ending tableau is theatrical and chilling.

With a crackerjack cast, this "Doctor Faust" could quite conceivably be stunning. As it is, it provides a wonderful training experience for the students in the cast. Director Aaron Gotlieb has integrated dance movement into a complex staging that creates memorable stage pictures, and he has challenged his ensemble with the variety of roles each is tasked with portraying. His work as a director is on the scale of a 5 out of 5; the overall production is far less successful than that. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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