Entertainment » Theatre

Crime & Punishment

by Christopher Verleger
Contributor
Friday Jan 25, 2013
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Stephen Thorne portrays Raskolnikov, the story’s damaged protagonist
Stephen Thorne portrays Raskolnikov, the story’s damaged protagonist   (Source:Facebook)

The controversial and often debated issues of faith, responsibility and conscience are at the forefront of Trinity Repertory Company’s gripping, powerful and startlingly original, albeit bizarre production of "Crime and Punishment," Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s epic novel about a man’s inability to escape the internal and external consequences of his actions.

The combined talents of Artistic Director Curt Columbus and Marilyn Campbell, who together adapted the classic behemoth of Russian literature into a 90-minute psychological drama, with director Brian Mertes’ unconventional yet purposeful vision and Eugene Lee’s cluttered, elaborate set design, as well as three unforgettable performances, make for a compelling docudrama-like event that presents memory sequences of eyewitness testimony and reenactments of transpired events in a performance artist’s setting, heavily influenced by audio and visual media.

An astounding Stephen Thorne portrays Raskolnikov, the story’s damaged protagonist who commits murder in an effort to "correct nature." After having repeatedly pawned his possessions to an unpleasant old woman, the poverty-stricken Raskolnikov convinces himself that her money would do him -- and ultimately, the universe -- better, so he decides to make things right, courtesy of an axe. Unfortunately for him, the woman’s sister witnesses the deadly crime and in turn meets the same fate.

Both the intended victim and the innocent bystander are played with ferocity by Rachel Christopher, who also portrays Sonia, a kind-hearted prostitute and Raskolnikov’s only friend. Thorne and Christopher are joined on stage by Dan Butler, making a triumphant return to the Trinity stage after more than two decades, as Porfiry, the steadfast inspector determined to eke a confession out of the guilt-wracked Raskolnikov.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the novel or its outcome, this intense production will leave you visually, intellectually and philosophically sated.

The ability of these three actors to master the intricate dialogue, transform into other characters and actively participate in the oddly erratic stage activity -- including cooked bacon, microwaved popcorn, invasive camera close-ups and haunting music from an electronic keyboard -- is nothing short of remarkable and further testament to their talent and the director’s creativity.

A grindstone, a life-sized crucifix, and an encyclopedia stack are but a few examples of the random items cluttered throughout the room, adjacent to an area mostly blocked from vision by worn, clouded windows. Much like inside his own mind, Raskolnikov finds himself hopelessly trapped in this crowded mess.

Some of the pointed references in the script are worthy of mention and further discussion, including Lazarus and Napoleon, and additional selections from the content are a bit dry, but regardless, it’s impossible to turn your attention away from the stage. Whether or not you’re familiar with the novel or its outcome, this intense production will leave you visually, intellectually and philosophically sated.

"Crime and Punishment" continues through Feb. 24 at Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington Street, Providence. For info or tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit Trinity Repertory Company’s website.

Chris Verleger is an avid reader, aspiring novelist and self-professed theater geek from Providence. Email cwverleger1971@yahoo.com.

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