The Soulful and The Soulless: Prospero and Faustus Face Off in an Elizabethan Spiritual Showdown

Michael Ooms as Faustus. Photo by Anya Magnuson.

Michael Ooms as Faustus. Photo by Anya Magnuson.

Watching both The Tempest and Doctor Faustus from Classical Actors Ensemble at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage is a sterling opportunity to see seminal Elizabethan stories about a protagonist who surrenders his ego for what can be assumed to be spiritual advancement in contrast to a protagonist who indulges his ego at the price of his soul.

Daniel Ian Joeck, a topnotch classical actor in his own right, takes the directorial reins of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, imbuing it with a captivating sense of the lyrically mystical. That said, his actors also achieve a vividly realistic sense of dominance, submission, and coercion in the play’s less fantastical scenes, which you might say demonstrate the manipulative and fallen nature of man.

George Muschamp gives a soulful performance in the lead role of Prospero, a wronged exiled nobleman who is compelled to relinquish his lust for vengeance. A dreamy Neal Beckman luminously embodies the ethereal nature of Prospero’s spirit guide, Ariel. Morgan LeClaire and Marci Lucht fluidly complement him as accompanying angelic-like forms.

Marco T. Magno’s lovely costumes and Chava Curland’s compelling puppets enhance the production.

Director Joseph Papke has interpreted Doctor Faustus as crisply as Joeck had done so fluidly with The Tempest. Michael Ooms’s portrayal of Faustus, a man who bargains with Satan to indulge in sin, is very much of our own time when we are tempted to excuse our lack of compassion and concern as being “none of my business” or something happening “over there.” Ooms’ somewhat cerebral take on Faustus is disarmingly matter-of-fact as he reveals the man’s toxicity. His performance is a savvy reminder that “evil” can exist in someone who you may think incapable of embodying it.

Doctor Faustus also has a sumptuous look and feel to it with majestic lighting by Dietrich Poppen. Justin Hooper’s scenic design for shows suits them both effectively. The acting ensembles for both plays are first-rate.

Doctor Faustus and The Tempest
In alternating performances through Nov.1
Minneapolis Theatre Garage, 711 W. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis

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