Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Guilty Consciousness: Shattered Globe Does a Nice Job Bringing 'Crime and Punishment' to the Stage -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Crime and Punishment
Adapted by Chris Hannan
Based on the novel by: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Directed by Louis Contey
Shattered Globe Theatre
at Theater Wit
Thru October 20

I have never read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but know it is regarded as a classic of world literature.

So when I saw that Chicago's Shattered Globe Theatre was doing a stage version--based on a relatively recent adaptation by Chris Hannan--I was intrigued.

And in watching it across nearly 3 hours Sunday afternoon--prior to the "Delight and Devastation" that was the Bears-Packers game (for a Bears fan)--I can share that the introduction to Crime and Punishment was well-worth my time. 

Obviously, I am unable to acutely assess the deftness with which Hannan adapted Dostoyevsky's novel. 

And yet, in wanting to get something of a Cliff Notes understanding of the book--and thinking I pretty much did--I can't perfectly gauge how well the stage rendition might work simply as theater, for anyone who may arrive with no awareness of the source material. 

Photo credit on all: Michael Brosilow
Overall, I think there was a bit too much going on for me to fully grasp or completely love this Crime and Punishment, set--per the book--in 19th century Russia, complete with appropriate garb and some light accents. 

But I very much appreciated the acting and ambition, and--to whatever degree of acuity--the story and its moral.

Although, I can't deny I had to check the book's plot summary on Wikipedia afterward to fill in some holes of my understanding, and I believe Hannan may have changed some things around.

Onstage at least, the narrative centers around a young ex-law student named Rodi Raskolnikov (an excellent Drew Schad), who in some muddled mix of poverty-stricken angst and self-aggrandizing hubris, murders a local pawnbroker (Daria Harper) rather gruesomely, then likewise her half-sister (Jazzma Pryor). 

Harper also plays Rodi's mom, and his sister Dunya (Christina Gorman) also factors in, as does a college friend (Joseph Wiens), a local drunkard (a superb Darren Jones) and the latter's daughter, Sonia (Ilse Zacharias), a hooker with a heart of gold who beguiles Rodi. 

This leaves out mentioning three other cast members (Rebecca Jordan, Patrick Thornton and Brad Woodard) and the multiple roles many of the actors embody. 

So there is whole a lot going on, and for me, the preponderance of long Russian names (perfectly apt per the novel), the same actors as various characters and a profusion of what I perceived as "human shadows"--various actors adorning the same long leather coat as Raskolnikov while moving roughly in unison--made for an occasionally confused sense of comprehension.

But the "shadows" were but one example of inspired directorial touches by Louis Contey (with deference to not knowing what exactly was in Doystoyevsky's book, Hannan's script or contributed by various crew members). 

Even before the play started, I was smitten by the set by Nick Mozak, featuring two large human faces painted on the floor. 

Though certainly not a musical, Crime and Punishment begins--in an intimate Theater Wit auditorium--with the cast chanting, and a bit more melodic singing comes later. 

In one key scene, virtually all the actors rhythmically pound their chests, symbolizing heartbeats of foreboding.

Great use is also made of portable doors, with occasionally two employed simultaneously.

And among numerous terrific lines of dialogue--apologies for not knowing if Dostoyevsky, any of his translators or Hannan should be credited--are some that feel eerily resonant today, as it is pondered if (self-proclaimed) "great men" have the right to essentially get away with murder, especially if they perceive the eventual ramifications and/or their ultimate contributions to society are for the greater good. 

I won't give away further plot details--famed as they may be--but will say that the connection between Roti and Ilse winds up being both poignant and palpable onstage. 

So while I wouldn't quite call this "must see" theater, the production is definitely quite well-done.

And whether you well-know, long-ago read, are curious about or rather oblivious to Dostoyevsky's novel, as a piece of theater you should find--perhaps to varying degrees--Crime and Punishment justly rewarding.

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