Theater Review: Crime & Punishment
Tweetable Review: Crime & Punishment still proves Mary Arrchie’s got talent – Dark & chilling talent, like the Chicago Winters
It seems only fitting that here in Chicago, where the temperatures have hit subzero, the wind blows in from the lake like sharp daggers and where the sight of snow has become second nature that one can perhaps look East, to Russia, where the Olympic games have recently started and feel akin to the country’s surroundings. It’s in the cold of the Far East which novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky set his criminality story of Crime and Punishment, and which brings audiences into a world of darkened torture taking place at Mary Arrchie Theatre until March 16.
In the Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus adaptation of the original Dostoyevsky 19th Century novel, the stage show of Crime and Punishment extracts a very concentrated tale centering on the man known as Raskolinkov, a man of little means but big ideas. As the show starts, audiences within Mary Arrchie’s tiny Angel Island space on Broadway are transported into a cramped and cold St. Petersburg loft and face-to-face with a centrally-fallen hero as he is questioned about a murder committed on an elderly pawnbroker, and later to be found guilty. Now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone when we discover that the accused is, in fact, the guilty party – after all, the setup here is very obvious from the start when you have a character as twitchy and paranoid as Raskonlinkov is. But essentially, that’s it – that’s the story of Crime and Punishment – it’s a simple tale in nature and simple to actually describe, but the draw here in watching this brooding drama and wanting to stay with the character(s) from the get go isn’t the action, but the examination of ideas – that’s where Dostoyevsky is anything but simple.
Through the course of this non-linearly told 90 min psychological drama in Crime and Punishment, audiences are given a look at a man as he grapples with larger & more philosophical ideas on the rights of humanity and ultimately the motivations behind the actions we all encounter day-to-day. What makes something right in the mind of someone, could be the breaking point for someone else. What is seen as entitlement to one person, could be seen as criminal to another. At what point do you draw the line in personal sanity when the action is taken for the “good-as-a-whole?”
Director Richard Corovsky has mounted an admirable production of a show which originally premiered back in 2003 at Writers Theatre. The setting is stark, the atmosphere of lighting & sound is cinematically chilling and there is a fine line of balance that the cast brings which requires walking between dour & down-right miserable; hey, you still go with it though – after all, it’s Russian. Actor Ed Porter portrays Raskolinkov with a fine edge & potency – he is the reason you should see this show. Over the course of the adaptation, Porter lets audiences in on the psyche of a man wading through a deep battle within oneself of good vs. evil, intellect vs. emotional, grounded vs. demented and altogether, committed to an ideal of proving theory to himself – even at the expense of sanity or the well-being of others around. Meanwhile, Jack McCabe does an admirable job as the Inspector assigned to the pawnkeeper’s murder, and Maureen Yasko fills in the rest of cast by lending her talent to multiple roles which offer significant weight to the plot – love interest, mother, pawnbroker, etc.
While the production as a whole is a strong outing and certainly will grapple attention from curtain-to-curtain (which is saying a lot for a show this dark), the largest misstep here is casting. As explained above, the central figures here are nicely placed and have talent to carry the material, but the levels haven’t been equally met and there are some holes which need mending.
As memorable as he is, McCabe does a fine job in keeping up with the his younger counterpart across the stage but the seams show a few too many times to be believed that his inspector would be able to take down the intellectual Roskolinkov by himself, and Yasko – bless her soul, the actress knows how to dive into each character pool and come up with additions to the story to keep audiences engaged, but she’s spread too thin to get a fully realized sense of any of her characters specifically. While it’s an actor’s job to be a tool in the director’s arsenal in telling a story – it doesn’t mean the director should overuse any one actor in order to keep an eye on budgetary restrictions, or explicit instructions that may have been sketched out in the original production notes.
Again, please don’t misconstrue constructive criticism for something which could seen as something lesser in another set of eyes. Mary Arrchie’s Crime and Punishment is a strong production that offers deep exploration to Dostoyevsky’s original material through narrative that is engrossing in both character and setting.
There’s a sense of calculated madness which is taking place through the World which director Corovsky is giving audiences & to which Ed Porter captures in his cold & unraveling central character.
The reality is, text and material this strong simply needs a cast which can be equal across the board – its harsh to say, but it’s the difference between Silver and Gold.
Fresh Roasted Rating: Recommended
~ Matt Miles, 24/7 Contributor
Producer of Fresh Roasted Films
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