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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

APT's Fascinating 'Crime and Punishment'

Going inside the mind of a murderer

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In addition to himself, the mind of Raskolnikov (Matt Schwader) is occupied by six other characters in American Players Theatre's production of Crime and Punishment: his mother Pulcheria Alexandrovna, the detective Porfiry, the reluctant prostitute Sonya and her drunken father Marmeladov, and the parasitic pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna and her kindly half sister Lizaveta. All six characters are played with chilling clarity by husband-and-wife acting team James Ridge and Colleen Madden.

Indeed, the performances are the best thing about Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus' adaptation of Dostoyevsky's 1866 novel, based in part on the author's personal experiences. As set in the mind of a murderer, the narrative rightly drops the novel's strong linear line in favor of a swirling morass of memory, paranoia, fear and self-revulsion, characteristics aided significantly by Noele Stollmack's inventive lighting and John Tanner's disturbing music and sound design.

Kenneth Albers' taut direction brings Schwader's portrayal to a fever pitch, while letting each of the remarkably and distinctly conceived supporting characters populate APT's Touchstone Theatre's small stage as they would have 19th-century St. Petersburg. Crime and Punishment is a fascinating piece of theater craft that nonetheless plays a seemingly long 95 minutes due to its lack of linearity.