by Michael Meigs
There's some wickedly clever entertainment taking place down in the cellar of Playhouse San Antonio, where playwright-actor David Davalos is doing saucy stand-up comedy set in early 16th century Germany.
In the second scene of Hamlet, Claudius the new king informs the prince, "For your intent in going back to school in Wittenberg, It is most retrograde to our desire." That university in Saxony, nearly a century old when Shakespeare was writing, was reputed in Elizabeth's Protestant England both for learning and for the years of dramatic controversies that began there with Martin Luther's public challenge to the Pope Leo X's approval of the practice of selling forgiveness. The Holy Father's indulgence in indulgences was a funding mechanism for rebuilding St. Peter's in Rome.
|David Davalos (photo: Siggi Ragnar)|
Davalos takes that rich set of circumstances and adds another element. What if that other great symbolic figure Dr. Faustus was on the Wittenberg faculty at the same time?
Imagining Wittenberg as a late medieval version of an American-style university, Davalos puts Faustus on the philosophy faculty, devoted to independent inquiry, presents Martin Luther as a somber senior lecturer in theology, and portrays the undergraduate Hamlet as indecisive, moody, and something of a slacker. And so the fun begins.
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