So Martin Luther, Dr. Faustus and Hamlet Walk Into A Bar

Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.

You don't have to know everything about Shakespeare, the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation or the legend of Faust to enjoy Wittenberg, the show running now at Fort Worth's Amphibian Stage Productions. But it helps.

Certainly playwright David Davalos knew a lot about these things and more as he set about writing this brainy comedy about the goings on at Wittenberg University in the fall semester of 1516, just before things got rotten in Denmark.

Hamlet, played by Robert James Walsh, is a callow, rather spoiled student, torn between the competing philosophies of two professors, Martin Luther (Jay Duffer) and Dr. Faustus (Brandon J. Murphy). Luther's the pious monk, telling the kid to listen for the voice of God. Faustus is a debauched hedonist who spends off-campus hours singing bawdy folk tunes at a bar called the Bunghole.

He keeps telling Hamlet to be true to himself and ignore all the God stuff.

Directed by David A. Miller, Wittenberg resounds with wit and with constant references to things that history and literature say happened later on to all three characters. (Bet you didn't know that Luther's 95 Theses were posted on that church door as a prank by Dr. Faust.)

Maybe the smartest mash-up of characters since Stoppard's Travesties and a smashing production to boot.

Wittenberg continues through July 24 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. Call 817-923-3012.

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