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Theater Review: Mary-Arrchie Theatre Serves ‘Crime and Punishment’

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – The epic Russian novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “Crime and Punishment,” gets a condensing by Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company, as the morality in the book is rendered into a palatable 95 minute stage version, directed by theatre founder and Artistic Director Richard Cotovsky.

HollywoodChicago.com Comedy/Tragedy Rating: 3.5/5.0
Play Rating: 3.5/5.0

The artful stagecraft, done on an appropriately claustrophobic space, brings to life the ethical dilemmas that the novel has expressed for close to 150 years. The story of an intellect who imagines himself the arbiter of right-and-wrong, as practiced through murder, still resonates through our code of society. There are only three actors in this version, with two playing multiple characters, enhanced by effective production, lighting and scenic dexterity that weaves together the past, present and dual symbolism of the story.

Crime and Punishment
Maureen Yasko, Ed Porter (Center) and Jack McCabe in Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s ‘Crime and Punishment’
Photo credit: Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company

In this stage play adaptation written by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus, the intellectual and radical Raskolnikov (Ed Porter) has been called into the police station and is being interrogated by Porfiry (Jack McCabe). He is suspected of the murder involving a pawn broker and her sister. There is no hard evidence that he did the crime, which starts a moral dilemma in hiding and justifying the sin of the act. Extremely poor and lonely, Raskonikov’s only refuge is a prostitute named Sonia (Maureen Yasko), but even she becomes unapproachable through the filter of his rationalizations.

It is up to the actors to deliver the “punishment,” and the stage set-up provides an appropriate playground for this action. It is split between the starkness of the police station and the squalor of Raskonikov’s apartment, “too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.” As the intellect confronts himself in both arenas, bits and pieces of the events leading up to the murder are revealed. The moodiness of the piece and the blank slate of the set blend perfectly together.

The three actors, doing the heavy lifting of Doestoyevsky’s vision, give certitude and presence to the work. Ed Porter as Raskolnikov, needed a warm up into the fevered guilt of the character, but by the time the physical act of killing is reproduced, his character is sharpened into a vehicle of his own conviction. Jack McCabe handles Porfiry with the bureaucrat’s gentle prodding, a “good cop” who knows which buttons to push. Maureen Yasko brings life to three major roles, and separates them deftly, with a talent toward meaning and character.

Crime and Punishment
Porfiry Confronts Raskolnikov in ‘Crime and Punishment’
Photo credit: Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company

Like the duality of “crime” and the “punishment,” director Richard Cotovsky splits the action between two places on stage. The moral suffering of Raskolnikov takes place on one side (punishment), the interrogation and flashbacks (crime) on the other. When the intellect had a monologue of justifications he stood center stage, between the two realms. This creates a movement and direction in the themes presented, and director Cotovsky’s care in that blocking is evident.

The themes in the play are as universal as the day Doestoyevsky put them to reason. Does the post-technological age dilute the “punishments’ we give ourselves or does it help justify the rationalizations? Everything old is new again.

“Crime and Punishment” is performed by the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company of Chicago, and presented at Angel Island Theatre, 731 W. Sheridan Road – Thursday-Sunday through March 16th, 2014. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets. Featuring Ed Porter, Maureen Yasko and Jack McCabe. Adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus. Directed by Rich Cotovsky.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2014 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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