Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


The production of Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus" at the Theater Na Maloi Bronnoi is billed as the first ever in Russia. That's surprising when you consider the play, for this is an excellent work combining wit and philosophical depth. However, under the direction of Igor Drevalyov, this version does not quite capture either one of those qualities.

On the positive side, Drevalyov had the happy thought of casting an actress in the role of Mephistophilis, creating a heightened sense of seduction to the relationship between the truth-seeking Faustus and the Devil's agent who promises everything in exchange for the Doctor's soul. As Mephistophilis, Larisa Boguslovskaya is effective, hovering about Faustus with a dangerously sycophantic sweetness. The actress is agile, slinking and darting about the stage with ease.

Less successful are the attempts to add an overlayer of showbiz to the proceedings, primarily in bits of dances staged by Ivan Fadeyev. Some of them, such as a discotheque number or the groping sex simulation closing the first act, appear to have been inspired by second-rate nightclub acts. Although there are some nice moments of a soprano and mezzo-soprano taking the stage to sing solemn arias to counteract the atmosphere of frivolity on stage, much of the music attributed to Drevalyov himself is quite weak.

As the necromancer Faustus who wishes to master the secrets of magic, Dmitry Tsursky cuts an imposing visual figure. He has a darkness about him that makes believable his character's wish to exceed the limits of human knowledge and enter the realm of the divine. However, the actor's flaw is that he seems not to trust the potential power of Marlowe's text. Where a simple manner of utterance would do, Tsursky invariably attempts to play every word for all the drama it carries. The result is that drama is buried under histrionics.

I thought this show was a case of missed opportunities. The real discovery of Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus" still lies ahead.

f John Freedman