Selling yourself one soul at a time

I suppose it’s happened to us all at one time or another. You’re an adept German philosopher who finds himself followed home by a black dog that turns out to be the devil and suddenly you’re signing your soul away for love, money and power. It happened to me just last week. Well, it happened to Dr. Faust at any rate; don’t look at me like that.

Running in two parts from March 29 to April 4, Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Faust comes to the Reeve Theatre, courtesy of the university’s drama department. The seven-hour play represents the life’s work of its author; an allegorical play completed only weeks before his death. Based on a story hundreds of years older than the play itself, Faust focuses on a dilemma that is still familiar in contemporary narratives: the infernal bargain.

The play’s story follows Dr. Faust, played by Guillermo Uraa, a philosopher whose worldly aspirations lead him to sign his soul away to Mephistopheles (Jamie Konchak) in exchange for wealth and power. As Faust journeys with Mephistopheles, he finds and loses love, witnesses salvation and damnation. However, because of its extraordinary length (originally 12 hours long) the play has traditionally been divided into two parts, the first of which has certainly been more accessible to North American audiences.

“Part one is more linear,” explains Urra, “part two is a bit more challenging; it gets more like a dream. In the span of a few minutes, for instance, the story jumps 50 years. This is the first time that part two has been performed in North America.”

However, while demonic contracts written in human blood may be familiar staples for university students, the play’s age presents difficulties in ensuring relevance to a contemporary audience.

“Getting the story is a lot more difficult,” admits Urra, “but we’ve tried to keep it moving, finding the passion. Once you find that, it’s a lot easier to understand.”

While the language may be difficult to grasp, Goethe’s social observations may yet ring true for contemporary audiences. For instance, Faust contains a grim denouncement of the future, claiming that the need for a good book will eventually be supplanted by the desire to witness graphic acts of corruption–a possibility made all too apparent by a certain ubiquitous genre of television programs.

However, if anyone doubts the relevance of this 200 year-old play, they are certainly not among its cast.

“It’s a once in a lifetime thing to do,” says Urra. “It’s been a challenge, but it’s been fun.”

Faust runs [Part 1: March 25-29] [Part 2: April 2-5]. For tickets or information please call: 220-7202.

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