"All books are either dreams or swords,/You can cut, or you can drug, with words." - Amy Lowell, 'Sword Blades and Poppy Seed'

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Theater Week: Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment was the only play I hadn't read before seeing it this past weekend, and I think it may have worked best that way.  The program labeled the setting of the play as "the Mind of Raskolnikov," which gave the play a more stream of consciousness feel than could come from a traditional linear plot.  It had three actors: one for Raskolnikov, a second as Sonia and all the other women, and a third as Porfiry and Sonia's father.  The play flowed the way life usually does, with something Porfiry says triggering Raskolnikov's memories, which he steps back into, before coming back to the present.  For those who don't know, I'm not spoiling anything by saying that  Raskonikov commits two murders. I assume they happen near the beginning of the novel, but we don't see them in the play until half or two-thirds of the way through.

The structure of the play, combined with all of the supporting characters being played by two actors serves to focus on Raskolnikov's mental state, and its decline from guilt. The acting required to carry all of this off was absolutely superb.  While playing multiple characters successfully is certainly impressive, it was the changes in individual characters (specifically Raskolnikov and Porfiry) that were the most impressive. When Porfiry came clean to Raskolnikov about what he knew, at was as if a switch had been flipped. He was a different person, though he maintained the same core of compassion throughout. Raskolnikov's decline was raw and absolutely excruciating.

The play took place in APTs indoor theater, a small, extremely intimate space that served to concentrate all of the emotions from the play, making them stronger and more intense. It also created a deeper relationship between the audience and what was taking place on stage.  That made it extremely powerful when Raskolnikov broke the fourth wall and tried to justify his actions to the audience and himself. When the lights went out at the end, I am sure I'm not the only person in the theater crying (including the actors).  It was an experience that will stay withe me for a long time. I definitely want to read the book now, but I find it hard to imagine that it can be any more powerful than the show.  When I read it, I'll be sure to let you know :)

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