Hamlet, Faust and Martin Luther walk into a bar…
As a good Lutheran married to a minister, when I saw Windfall Theater was staging a play titled Wittenberg, I was intrigued.
As I read the synopsis of the production, I laughed wholeheartedly.
“It is October 1517 in northern Germany. The beginning of another fall semester at the University of Wittenberg finds certain members of the faculty and student body at personal and professional crossroads. Hamlet (senior, class of 1518) is returning from a summer in Poland spent studying astronomy, where he has come in contact with a revolutionary scientific theory that threatens the very order of the universe, resulting in psychic trauma and a crisis of faith for him. His teacher and mentor John Faustus (professor, philosophy) has decided at long last to make an honest woman of his paramour, Helen, a former nun who is now one of the Continent’s most sought-after courtesans. And Faustus’ colleague and Hamlet’s instructor and priest, Martin Luther (professor, theology), is dealing with the spiritual and medical consequences of his long-simmering outrage at certain abusive practices of the Church—the same Church to which he has sworn undying obedience.”
Wow, I missed a lot while dozing through confirmation classes 35 years ago!
Hamlet, Faustus and Luther together? I learned Luther was known to enjoy a stein or six, but the morose Hamlet and morally ambivelent Faustus bellying up to the bar or student cafeteria probably leads to hilarity.
That’s exactly what Windfall Theater director Carol Zippel was going for when she choose the David Davalos play. Hilarity and deep thoughts about the choices we all face in life.
“I was intrigued by the play,” Zippel said. “And it’s not just for Lutherans. It is a well-written play that is well-balanced with comedy, intrigue and mind-bending twists. I would describe it as Tom Stoppard mashed together with Monty Python.”
Faustus and Hamlet are fictional literary characters; Luther fronted the largest reformation in the Christian Church. Wittenberg connects them. And as Zippel read the play she knew exactly who she wanted to bring the characters to life on stage.
David Flores plays Dr. Faustus. Zippel said his love of language, great wit and humor make him the perfect match for a character who relies on his mind and book knowledge to get ahead. Flores has performed Trinculo in The Optimist Theater’s production of The Tempest, directs for numerous local theater groups and is a member of the Milwaukee Arts Board.
Hamlet is brought to life by Kyle Queenan, whom Zippel chose for his sensitivity and maturity.
“Hamlet’s character is all about destiny,” Zippel said. “He is about finding his footing and balance. Kyle does a great job expressing that.”
Queenan has worked at The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Windfall Theatre, and Carte Blanche Studios. He is also the artistic director for Fresh Page Productions, which brings the works of Tennesee Williams to the stage.
Rounding out the cast is Lindsey Gagliano as the Eternal Feminine Bottom. Megan Peterson serves as stage manager.
Wittenberg makes its Milwaukee premiere this Friday at 8 p.m. and runs though March 2. For more show times and tickets, click here.