By Joe Straw
How is it that you can turn 500-page novel into an abbreviated 90-minute play with no intermission? Crime and Punishment by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Colombus wishes you to brood darkly over that question. And they want an answer!
The play, based of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s towering masterpiece of the same name, is presented by A Noise Within in Glendale, California and directed by Craig Belknap.
Crime and Punishment, the play, can best be described as journey into the world of interrogation.
The play is set in St. Petersburg, Russia, circa 1866, in the multi-level apartment building of an intelligent and very hungry student, Raskolnikov (Michael A. Newcomer). He is under investigation for murdering an unprincipled pawnbroker and her unwitting sister (both played by Holly Hawkins).
Porfiry (Robertson Dean), the examining magistrate, is leading the investigation.
This play is about Porfiry’s mastery of the art of interrogation and this investigation has many layers. Porfiry is communicating with a purpose, understanding the underbelly of the crime, the motives behind it, and in the process getting the slip of the tongue. We are here to see the art of interrogation and subsequently the arrest of the guilty.
Porfiry interrogates Raskolnikov because of his close proximity to the murder victims, his published essay on Crime, and besides Porfiry has eliminated all the other suspects. Raskolnikov thinks he can outwit Porfiry because of his superior intellect. It is the talk of a madman and Porfiry is having none of it.
Porfiry takes the moral high ground the moment he walks into the room, note pad opened (odd that there appeared to be no notes taken) in a non-aggressive style remarked by Raskolnikov as a “usual ploy”.
Murder has an effect on the most callous of minds and Raskolnikov is no exception, contrary to his belief. Watching the unforgettable last breath of someone dying haunts his pictorial mind and is played repeatedly. An image, conjured up in anxiety filled moments of frenzy, ravages his physical life and slowly madness creeps into the psyche of his sleep and in the waking moments of his life.
This play has three actors and filling out the roles of Sonia, a prostitute, Alyona, a pawnbroker, and Raskolnikov’s mother is Holly Hawkins. A subtle change in costumes indicating a change in roles was unsatisfying.
The three actors were magnificent but on this particular day the cat and mouse play had the opposite effect. No points were scored and the players were left exhausted trying to connect with themselves and the audience. This was a battle that seemed to have no winners or losers, a struggle for events and life altering momentum played out on a grand scale with minimum effect.
All is not lost here. Notes, a slight change, and a little humor from Newcomer will add to their journey.
The dialogue from Campbell and Colombus seemed to be lifted directly off the pages of the book. It is sharp and witty but but missing are the daggers that strikes into the heart of the recipient that are not supplied by the actors but should be noted by the director, Belknap.
Noise Within is located near the mall in Glendale. This is a wonderful Equity space for its yearlong repertory company. The theatre stretches four stories into the Glendale sky imploring patrons to come inside and marvel for a couple of hours. A Noise Within is schedule to break new ground in a $15 million dollar facility to be built next year.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky knew something about crime and punishment having been arrested, interrogate and almost shot by a firing squad before his release.
Runs Through December 17th 2009
A Noise Within, 234 South Brand Blvd. Glendale, CA 91204
Reservations: 818-240-0910 x1