Playwright: Chris Hannan, adapted from Dostoevsky
At: Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-975-8150; ShatteredGlobe.org; $39. Runs through: Oct. 20
Adapting a Dostoevsky novel for the stage requires a lot of condensation, but it might not seem that way in this two-and-a-half hour version. Nonetheless at least one major subplot has been totally eliminated ( the appearance in St. Petersburg and suicide of Svidrigailov ), while the psychological cat-and-mouse game between the murderer Raskolnikov ( Drew Schad ) and detective Porfiry Petrovich ( Patrick Thornton, perhaps a bit too affably cagey ) has been greatly reduced, although it's the central focus in many adaptations.
Adapter Chris Hannan instead gives the greatest weight to Raskolnikov's growing involvement with the family of drunkard Semyon Marmeladov ( Darren Jones ), especially his prostitute daughter, Sonya ( Ilse Zacharias ), the novel's redemptive figure.
Hannan's version may include more of the parallel-and-subplots than most stage adaptations, but even so it's a lifetime study to track and understand Dostoevsky's complex ( and changing ) ardor for social justice and reform on the one hand and spiritual orthodoxy on the other. No wonder Raskolnikov is conflicted! He's an egotist with a martyr complex, a man whose emotional doubts undermine his intellectual convictions.
The hard-working ensemble makes the characters surprisingly colorful. Drew Schad artfully manages to convey Raskolnikov's tortured psyche and many moods, at one moment arrogant and at another gentle, but always unable to accept the affection of others. Darla Harper is particularly sharp portraying the contrasting personalities of the murder victim and Raskolnikov's mother.
Despite its length, this production remains consistently engaging and energetic, even in its quiet moments, as put together by capable veteran director Louis Contey. His concept of having Raskolnikov shadowed at every moment by mute alter egos is odd and adds little obvious valuehe'd be better placing devil and angel puppets on Raskolnikov's shouldersbut all else is effective, aided by Christopher Kriz's original music and sound design and Shelly Strasser's generally-warm lighting.
Nick Mozak's unit set creates a handsome and versatile base for the production. There's nothing overtly Russian about it, but the warmth of wood suggests 1860s Petersburg in which only the grandest buildings would have been masonry structures. A few simple sticks of furniture, a few props ( ya' gotta' have an ax, right? ) and a portable door provide all other necessary furnishings. Best of all, the stage floor is painted with a Russian icon-style Madonna and Child image, which speaks volumes about the play's key female/male relationships as well as Dostoevsky's central theme of redemption.