One thing is certain when you go to see a play at Todd Theatre – you’re not going to understand everything you see, especially when the play is one of Gertrude Stein’s creations. But confusion is not necessarily a bad thing. In the upcoming production of “Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights,” audience members will be blown away in confusing, yet intriguing ways.

For those of you who decide to go, which should be anyone who enjoys theater, a little background information is definitely helpful. The play is based on the ancient legend of a man who sold his soul to the devil for all the knowledge and power in the world. Over the centuries, the tale has been told with various female characters, including the Virgin Mary.

In the story of “Dr. Faustus” there are two female love interests, Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel, that are twisted together in one character. Yes, that’s one girl with two personalities.

If the tale seems simple enough, think again. In the hands of Gertrude Stein, Dr. Faustus’ story becomes convoluted, with a talking dog, a schizophrenic girl and a female devil who is referred to as a man.

The dialogue is tricky at first, written in abstract rhyme with music thrown in, but the meaning behind the words is always decipherable once you know its context. The actors always get their point across and you can’t help getting sucked into their twisted world.

Like most of Todd’s plays, the lighting, sound and set are all extremely well thought-out and in this case, particularly eerie. You honestly feel like you’re in a mad scientist’s laboratory surrounded by the dingy walls, floor with missing tiles and lab equipment that doesn’t look like it could do anything good to a human body. Even if you don’t understand a minute of the plot, the atmosphere alone is reason enough to attend.

With the difficulties of understanding the play set aside, another guarantee can be made about Todd Theatre and “Dr. Faustus” – the actors deliver their performances superbly.

In particular, the talents of Annie Herzog are quite impressive. Playing Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel, Herzog delivers a highly convincing portrayal of frustration and insanity that will leave you with your jaw on the floor. Her role in the play is fairly ambiguous, as she seems to be a child, a saint and a lustful woman, at different points in the story.

Within the rest of the cast, the dynamic between the other characters are electric. Dr. Faustus, played by the thin, wiry Jonathan Wetherbee, seems almost dwarfed next to the devil Mephisto, played by Stephanie Paredes, a full, curvaceous woman, nearly the height of an NBA player. The three vixen-nurses, Anna Fagan, Taryn Kimel and Liz Lirakis strut around the stage in blood red, four-inch-heeled stilettos and that in itself is a wonder.

So back to the original question – is it important that this play, like many in Todd Theatre, is hard to follow? Only in the sense that the confusion makes Todd plays even more interesting.

Unlike your classes in the huge lecture halls, you don’t have to understand everything that happens in “Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights.” All you have to do is sit back and be entertained. You only have to think a little and there are no consequences for not understanding everything presented. Think of it as a good challenge, and you’ll be glad you went.

Ryan can be reached at

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