“Doctor Faustus” Indulges the Dark Arts in the Fall Play


On Friday, November 5th and Saturday, November 6th, Potomac’s theatre department put on three performances of Christopher Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus,” whose title character indulges in the dark arts to assuage his frustration with knowledge’s limits. In his dabbling, he trades his soul to Lucifer in exchange for twenty-four years of service from one of the devil’s subordinates, Mephastophilis. Throughout the play, Faustus faces an internal battle between repenting or following through on his deal with the devil, but alas, it is too late for Faustus when the clock strikes midnight.
A consistent aspect of Potomac productions is high quality acting, and “Dr. Faustus” was no exception. Each actor portrayed their character extremely well, especially given the play is written in Old English. In addition to being hard to memorize, Old English can also be hard to follow simply because it is antiquated. The audience, however, could easily understand the story and the characters’ emotions thanks to the intonation the actors incorporated to capture both the deeper and light-hearted moments. Ethan Northan, in the role of Faustus, had some lengthy monologues but tackled them with ease, and the audience sympathized with the conflict Faustus felt. To balance out the heavier parts of the plot, there were more playful scenes that served as comedic relief. A shopping cart even made an appearance with a not-so-motivated Sofya Donets, who played Sloth, inside, which had the audience laughing out loud. Even though the actors had the added challenge of wearing masks, they did not detract from the production in the least.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID, in scenes with two or more actors on stage, masks needed to be worn, but the actors seamlessly transitioned between wearing them and not. Even without microphones, the audience could hear the actors enunciate each word. Catherine Caroll, who played Mephistopheles, would even use the mask to her advantage as if it were a natural element of her costume.
Another element that did not go unnoticed was the clever use of the entire EPAC, which built engagement with the audience. Emily Raman, who played the Chorus, consistently appeared in various locations, and by the end of the play, the audience was on their toes in search of her. Catherine’s entrances from the back of the house, which gave the illusion that the devil was among the audience, sent a chill down everyone’s spine. The brilliant use of lighting and the side alcove enhanced the illusion and as a result, the audience’s immersion in the story. Additionally, the upstage shadows for Faustus’ angel and devil figures supplemented Ethan’s skills in portraying Faustus’ inner turmoil.
Overall, great job! Congratulations to the cast and crew for masterfully telling Dr. Faustus’ story. And remember to keep your eyes out for the winter musical, “Guys and Dolls”!