By Andrew Andrews

Dr. Faustus (Brandon Walker) is seized by Mephistopheles (Erin Cronican) in The Hysteria of Dr. Faustus by The Seeing Place. Original photo courtesy of the company.

The story of Doctor Faustus is as timeless as they come: an intelligent, educated, successful old man becomes bored with life as he knows it, so he sells his eternal soul to the devil in exchange for some short-term fun.

As with any timeless tale, Faust’s has been rewritten many times since the original Historia von D. Johann Fausten in the late 1500’s. Most recently, playwright Brandon Walker has adapted both the title and plot to modern times with The Hysteria of Dr. Faustus, now on stage at the Paradise Factory in the East Village.

With Walker in the title role and director Erin Cronican as his frenemy Mephistopheles, Hysteria opens with a college professor—"I didn’t realize anyone was still called" Heinrich Faustus—lecturing to a disrespectful audience after an apparent tragedy has left him despondent that "every generation [is] one step closer to annihilation."

After bailing on the lecture and having his suicide aborted by his teaching assistant, Christine Walker (Cronican), Faustus summons Mephistopheles and negotiates his deal, hoping to "effect positive change" and "heal the world" in order to achieve happiness altruistically.

Mephistopheles has other goals, however, and encourages Faustus to opt for the "highlights package, which allows for only the good times for those eager souls hungry to enjoy bliss."

So Heinrich rebrands himself as a thirty-year-old bestselling author named Henry Faust and proceeds to ruin the life of a devout virgin named Gretchen (Broghanne Jessamine) and her aunt Martha (Candice Oden) as a result of his desire to possess the perfect woman.

What makes Hysteria particularly interesting is how quickly the demon is able to trick Faust(us) into abandoning his goal of solving the world’s problems and focus instead on selfish, personal gain.

Also of interest is Brian Pacelli’s projections, allowing the scene to change on a moment’s notice without physically rearranging the set.

The classic tale has multiple, alternate endings, and we’re not going to give away what happens to this particular Dr. Faustus in this particular interpretation of the sixteenth-century legend.

For that, you’ll have to check out The Hysteria of Dr. Faustus yourself!

Of course afterwards, be sure to come back and tell us how you feel about The Seeing Place’s production.

Your reviews can help others decide whether Walker’s modern twist on this classic parable is right for them, and your ratings help us help you find future performances you’re sure to love!


Andrew Andrews attended THE HYSTERIA OF DR FAUSTUS at Paradise Factory in Manhattan on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 @ 7:00pm to write this review.