It takes a Trinity to condense Dostoyevsky’s lengthy novel into a 90-minute intense, powerful stage production. It also takes three incredibly talented actors to interpret three complex characters, get inside their heads, and make us sympathetic towards their pathetic lives.
We had seen this play, adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Trinity’s artistic director, Curt Columbus, done in a different manner (and done very well) at Gamm eight years ago. Director Brian Mertes gives us a different perspective, shorter but packed with emotion.
The cluttered, confused mind of its protagonist, Raskolnikov, is as cluttered and confusing as the set designed by Eugene Lee. There’s a bed and all sorts of sound equipment, TVs, cameras, a piano, bright lights, microphones, books and even an old grinding wheel. On the wall are a huge crucifix and a variety of rugs.
We learn that the young, conflicted, poor ex-student has committed a horrible crime and is in deep despair. Raskolnikov is visited by Porfiry, a police investigator who starts his inquiry by asking him if he believes that Lazarus rose from the grave, and if he believes in God before the usual questions of where were you on the night of. Conversation gets a bit heavy as the two men discuss topics of morality, criminality, pain and suffering, and the premise that all great men are criminals.
Amazingly, the play that was written in Russia 147 years ago is still relevant today, as we try to make sense out of why people kill other people. Motive and opportunity play heavily, along with the murderer’s state of mind.
Raskolnikov is faced with a moral dilemma. Are his wrongful actions justified by the results? He compares himself to Napoleon, a great man whose actions are justified by his greatness.
Raskolikov’s concern for Sonia, a prostitute, and her concern for him, even after learning of his deeds, makes for an interesting study of the human mind and emotions.
So much is packed into 90 minutes that you will come away mentally exhausted.
Stephen Thorne has captured the mental anguish of Rakolnikov, giving a performance that is both emotionally and physically exhausting. Rachel Christopher, a Brown/Trinity Consortium graduate is remarkably compassionate and passionate as Sonia and a few other characters. And welcome back to Dan Butler, who returns to Trinity after 28 years of excelling on other stages, TV and movies. His portrayal of Porfiry is outstanding.
Much of the story has been trimmed for this powerful production, including what finally happens to the character, but the meat of the story is still there. Once again, Trinity upholds its tradition of providing powerful, challenging theatre. Don’t miss it.
“Crime and Punishment” is at Trinity’s downstairs Dowling Theatre, where it is “up close and personal,” through February 24. Call 351-4242 for tickets.