Sunday, November 18, 2007

Crime and Punishment review

Crime and Punishment

November 07, 2007

By Christopher Murray

Chicago's Writers' Theatre brings its rightfully celebrated 2003 production of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment to 59E59 Theaters as part of the GoChicago! Festival. Distilling a 718-page Russian novel into a 90-minute theatre piece for three actors is quite a coup de théâtre in and of itself — the taut and vibrant adaptation is by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus — but that it makes for moving storytelling and bravura acting is something special.

Raskolnikov (Scott Parkinson), the intense and idealistic student who has taken his ideas about progress and potential to destructive extremes, enters through the same door as does the audience, signaling the relevance of this pre-revolution tale to our own time. The production plays out on Eugene Lee's simple plywood set of doors under the averted gaze of a life-size statue of Christ on the cross — signaling the transforming power of redemption — and the harsh downward flood of Keith Parham's six large lighting instruments that create the impression of a mechanized high noon. Theresa Squire's simple costume elements — a cap, a fringed shawl — economically signal shifts between characters.

The small-boned, blond-haired, red-bearded Parkinson is all tortured tics, wringing dirty hands, and wet, red-rimmed eyes. The actor was nominated for a Jefferson Award back home for his portrayal and well he should have been. In a tour de force performance in which he never leaves the stage, Parkinson powerfully conveys both the arrogance and enormous compassion of Raskolnikov. John Judd and Susan Bennett bring specificity and depth of feeling to their embodiment of several roles, including Raskolnikov's wily interrogator and Sonia, the poor daughter forced into prostitution. Bennett's wary, uncomprehending stare is particularly memorable.
Michael Halberstam's fine direction movingly calls the audience's attention to the hands of the actors as they reach out to each other for understanding and forgiveness.

Presented by Writers' Theatre as part of the GoChicago! Festival at 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St., NYC. Nov 7-Dec. 2. Tue.-Fri., 8:15 p.m.; Sat., 2:15 and 8:15 p.m.; Sun., 3:15 and 7:15 p.m. (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentralcom.

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