“The Great Magician,” a classical Faust tale newly adapted and translated by Alexander Barreto DRA ’03, will begin performances tonight at the University Theater.

Pedro Calderon de la Barca wrote the play in 1637 and Barreto says the new version maintains the spirit of the original, but with additional character development. Director Patrick Diamond DRA ’03 and translator Alexander Barreto DRA ’03 said they chose the piece partly due to the void they saw in current performances of Spanish theater.

“It seemed that the only connection people made to Spanish theater is ‘Life as a Dream’ [another work by Calderon],” Diamond said. “It’s a shame there are so few good translations of good Spanish plays.”

Diamond added that the play “seemed like the right choice” because of its philosophical nature and focus on persecution and beliefs.

“It really speaks to who we are as Americans and what’s going on in the world around us,” he said.

The play deals with the difficult decisions of the character Ciprian, who makes a pact with the devil to learn magic and win Justina’s love. The deal ultimately lands Ciprian and Justina in a fight for their immortal souls.

“It’s the classic story of selling your soul to the devil for something that you want,” said Elisa Spencer DRA ’05, School Show Administrator.

Barreto said that while he did adapt the play in his translation, he tried to keep its spirit intact.

“It’s not from a tradition that is character based, it’s more plot based,” he said. “So I added some character detail to create more character psychology, but there are no scenes that are missing.”

Barreto said he abandoned the original rhyming verse for a more understandable prose, but tried to maintain the original texture and speed. He said he hopes the play will force people to examine their own values.

“I hope people will ask themselves what it is that they believe in, what they would die for, and whether people should die for their beliefs,” Barreto said.

In conjunction with the show, two special events are in the works.

A tour of Spanish art, “An Evening of Spanish Arts,” will precede the Dec. 5 performance. The tour, co-sponsored by the Yale University Art Gallery, will run from 5-6 p.m. at the gallery and is free of charge, although separate reservations are required.

Spencer said this event aims to expose a wider audience to Spanish art.

“The Spanish culture is very rich,” she said. “Many people don’t get a chance to experience very much of it around Yale.”

An ale tasting sponsored by Brewery Ommegang, a Yalie-owned and run micro-brewery based in Cooperstown, N.Y., will precede the Dec. 10 performance. Participants may sample three different types of ale if they present a government-issued proof of legal age. The event will begin at 7 p.m. in the University Theater lobby.

“It’s a great way to appeal to a younger crowd,” Spencer said.

Tickets for “The Great Magician” range in price from $15-$18 and performances will run from Dec. 5 through Dec. 11.