Buy Tickets From the 2016-2017 Season: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus Playing January 07, 2017 to January 29, 2017

A Suzi Bass Awards Recommended Show!


Chris Kayser and Laura Cole

This is the story of a man whose insatiable thirst for knowledge leads him to the black arts through which he discovers the sensual world of indulgence, devils and temptation beyond imagining. And for this world he barters his immortal soul.

This Doctor Faustus will be unlike any play you have ever seen. Running only ninety minutes, it will be played by two actors without intermission. The audience will be seated on stage and around the Tavern. The play itself, done in ritual form, will be enacted in the center of the space.

Take note: LATECOMERS WILL NOT BE SEATED. Tickets are limited and, due to the seating arrangement, will be difficult to let in new people once the show is going on.


Join the cast and crew members for a lively Question and Answer session on Sunday January 15 after the show!

Want to get a better idea of what to expect? Read this review from Brad K. Rudy from our 2009 production.


***** ( A+)

In the beginning, there is darkness.  Silence.  Thirty Seconds.  Sixty.  Perhaps more.  In this region of no senses, how are we to know?

The sound of a heavy door clangs.  Chains rattle.  Shadows form.  An androgynous figure, sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes both, sometimes neither, wanders among the tables, scattered arena-like around a central field of battle.  He (or is it she?) lights candles, bringing form from the darkness, shadow from the night.  We see in the arena an arcane design, mystic runes portending a pact beyond our wisdom.

And we see the results of that pact.  We see a man of knowledge squander all opportunity for goodness.  We see that androgynous figure portray all the characters in the man’s life (if, indeed, it is his life).  We see an endless, eternal battle, the constant mano-a-daemano that is the man’s eternity.  We see the price he pays for his wisdom.  And we hear the eternal poetry of the 16th-Century ethos from which the tale came forth.

And in the end, the figure wends her (or is it his?) way among us, dousing all light, returning the arena to the Stygian darkness from whence it came.

And in the end, we hear the clanging of that door, forever closing us off from grace and redemption.

In the end, there is darkness.  Silence.  Thirty Seconds.  Sixty.  Perhaps more.  In this region of no senses, how are we to know?

Jeff Watkins, Artistic Director of the New American Shakespeare Tavern, is fond of telling us his mission is the words of the Bard, the style of the Elizabethan era, that his role as director takes back seat to the role of the words.  Forgetting for moment that that, in itself, is a directorial choice (as are the hundreds of accommodations made to please a contemporary audience), here, his role is central.  He is the “Star” (if you will) of this production.  And it is an incredibly agile star turn.  The first play of the year may, indeed, bring us the best Directing Achievement of the year.

Mr. Watkins has adapted Christopher Marlowe’s multi-character history of the Faustus legend to be performed, in the round, by two actors, Maurice Ralston and Laura Cole.  He shows himself a master of “in-the-round” blocking paradigms, of creating a mood, of building suspense, of using twenty-first century staging techniques to tell this sixteenth-century story (despite the program’s insistence we are in the nineteenth century).  And, most dramatically, he has moved the story from its historical roots, and placed it in Hell itself.  He shows us that eternal re-enactment of a life spent in excess, can carry torment greater than any physical torture a pitiless God can prescribe.  This production is far more Watkins than Marlowe, and I loved every minute of it.  It is one of those plays that, at the end, the audience sits in silence and darkness for a long interval, before a single brave soul (not I – I have no such courage) breaks the spell with slow applause.

Like all Good Theatre, this production is excellently produced and acted.  Laura Cole, especially, deserves credit for her chameleon-like Mephistopheles – her portrayal of the seven deadly sins alone displays a mastery of physicality, emotional accuracy, and mocking characterization.  And Maurice Ralston does his expected turn as the doomed Doctor, always ambivalent about the price he is paying, always subconsciously aware that he is actually living his fate, not building its foundation.

Like all Great Theatre, this production sends my mind wandering through a labyrinth of questions and philosophies – Why is memory such torture?  Why is emotional torment more piercing than physical torment?  Why does darkness and silence fill us with dread?  I daresay, none of these questions would be evoked by a straight-forward reading of the original Marlowe text.

And, like all Great Theatre, it lingers for hours, perhaps (we shall see) days.  Why does the walk from the theatre to the parking lot now seem like a journey through purgatory, complete with tormentors asking for change?  Why does the music on WABE (sacred and profane songs for the New Year) seem especially synchronous to this play?  Why do I lie awake for hours (on a work night), pondering eternity, virtue, and darkness?  What can I possibly write that will do justice to the power of this production?

In the end, there is darkness.  Silence.  Thirty Seconds.  Sixty.  Perhaps more.  In this region of no senses, how are we to know?

Director's Notes

Directed by Jeff Watkins

Show Information


90 minutes. No intermission. No Late Seating

Show Roles

Performances January 7-29, 2017

Dramatis Personae*
Doctor Faustus Chris Kayser*
Mephistopheles, others Laura Cole*
Helen of Troy Anna Fontaine
Sound Demons Nicholas Faircloth, Dani Herd, Anna Fontaine

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Show Times
In general, shows at The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse begin at 7:30pm, except on Sundays, when they begin at 6:30pm.

Bardometer Rating

How difficult is this Shakespearean play to grasp? On a scale of 1 to 10.
What does rating this mean?

You may already know the story and what happens at the end. But even if you don’t, the play is light and the plot is easy to follow. Limited violence, limited bawdiness (see below). There are very few things – historical, religious, or political – that you need to know ahead of time. Just enjoy!

A note about bawdiness in Shakespeare: It exists. Despite what your English teacher taught you, Shakespeare wrote some pretty saucy lines and they pop up from time to time. While there is never any nudity on stage, our actors are trained to make the text clear. If we feel a show contains a plethora of Graphic Elizabethan Poetry (or is very bloody/violent/triggering) we will put that disclaimer in the blurb about the show. It won’t happen often. If this Bardometer lists a play as a 1 or 2, you can rest assured that it is an appropriate show for kids under ten.

Additional Information