Saturday, May 2, 2015

Wittenberg

Josh Innerst as Martin Luther, Patrick Earl as Hamlet, and Andrew Goldwasser as John Faustus in WITTENBERG. Photo by Michael Bailey.
The American Shakespeare Center has added a fourth play to their spring season line-up this year: David Davalos' 2008 play, Wittenberg. Wittenberg is a prequel to both Hamlet and Doctor Faustus (both also in rep this season), set in the town of the same name and the University of Wittenberg. It deals with the great debate of theology vs. philosophy and the meaning of life, with Martin Luther on one side, Dr. Faustus on the other and Hamlet in the middle. I had been looking forward to this show all year, and I was not disappointed. It's a great play, a lot of fun, and I highly recommend seeing it.

The production does not feature a full cast. The three main roles are played by Josh Innerst (Luther), Andrew Goldwasser (Faustus), and Patrick Earl (Hamlet). Stephanie Holladay Earl plays Gretchen, a bar wench at the Bunghole, Helen (Faustus' love), Mary the Mother of God, and Lady Voltemand, a Danish ambassador. Ben Gorman plays a judge in one scene, and Patrick Poole reprises his role as Laertes off stage in a tennis match with Hamlet. The rest of the company perform as musicians, and like the other productions this season, the music is fantastic.  

Both Goldwasser and Innerst are tremendous in their roles. Their first act debate in the Bunghole (hee-so many of those jokes throughout) is captivating. Innerst's does a fantastic job delivering Luther's sermons, and also displaying Luther as a man of God, but also as a struggling sinner; sermonizing and drinking and cursing all at the same time. Likewise, Goldwasser shows us that Faustus, while not really believing in anything, is as fragile and struggling as Luther and will do anything to get the love of the woman he desires, Helen, a fallen nun who has become a money obsessed prostitute. Patrick Earl's role as Hamlet is much stronger in the second half of the play--the first being dominated by the polar opposites of Luther and Faustus. Hamlet's struggle is over what path to choose- basically the struggle of all mankind.

This was a wonderful experience and I hope to be able to see the production several more times before it closes and I hope you will too.