Crime and Punishment
March 29 – May 3, 2009
This 90-minute adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s classic novel was first produced as a two-person version in 2007 at the Capitol Hill Arts Center (rest in peace), directed by Sheila Daniels. Hana Lass and Galen Joseph Osier, the original players, are now joined by Todd Jefferson Moore to round out a three-person version of this action- and philosophy-packed play. Daniels directs this second production as well, bringing it to a larger stage at a Tony-award winning regional theater.
The story revolves around the double murder of two old women: a crotchety pawnbroker, Alyona, and her gentle sister Lizaveta (both played by Lass). Porfiry (an excellently sly and pointed Moore) is the investigator assigned to the case. Osier plays Raskolnikov, a young law student consumed with the idea that humanity can be separated into ordinary and extraordinary men—and that these extraordinary men have a right to commit crimes to reach their more exalted goals. Porfiry is, understandably, intrigued by both this idea and the man behind it, and the loose structure of the play—such as it is—concerns their conversations, which move subtly into interrogations as Porfiry shows more of his suspicions. Besides the two old women and Raskolnikov’s mother, Lass’ main role is Sonia, the young woman forced into prostitution by circumstance, with whom Raskolnikov falls in love. (Lass plays each of the four women distinctly and memorably, making impressive switches between each one.)
Galen Joseph Osier as Raskolnikov and Hana Lass as Sonia.
Photo by Chris Bennion.
This adaptation is highly theatrical, told partly in flashbacks, with sharp, highlighted transitions between each scene. The technical elements add greatly to this effect: the set (Carey Wong) most especially, which is composed of two walls, three doors, and semi-transparent wallpaper. The lighting (Dans Maree Sheehan) shines through the walls, sometimes amber glow, sometimes white daylight; and is used to great effect on the audience itself. The actors also contribute to the effective transitions and pace of the play; all three of them are committed and each moment, however stylized, feels honest.
It is somewhat difficult to comment on this show in an analytical manner since so much of it is centered around doubt, confusion, circumstance and hidden motives. It is intentionally difficult for the audience to walk away with a clear idea of how they feel. Daniels’ direction draws the audience into the confused investigation, as well as siding them with everyone and no one at once. However, her choice to give Osier—who is the only actor to speak to the audience—a more presentational style of acting sometimes creates a disconnect; since that presentational style is never quite fully established, it is jarring when it comes in direct contact with the other two actors’ representational styles.
This difference of acting styles, however, is overcome by the actors’ considerable skill and the intriguing questions of the play itself. This is a play that will leave you thinking long after it is over.
Review by Lia Morgan and Nigel Andrews