Crime and Punishment
If the scaled-down adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment now onstage at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, MD, proves one thing, it may be that sometimes less is less, not more.
Round House bills the streamlined adaptation by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus of Dostoyevsky's monumental novel as "90 minutes, three actors, two murders." The problem is that, as directed by Blake Robison on Robin Stapley's expressionistic set, it's talky to the point of boredom rather than crackling with suspense and psychological insight.
In 19th-century Russia, Raskolnikov (Aubrey Deeker) is a starving student living in despair. The audience knows that he has killed an elderly pawnbroker and her sister, and the police detective Porfiry (Mitchell Hébert) is determined to force him to confess through mind games and manipulation. Raskolnikov also is tortured by visions of Sonia (Tonya Beckman Ross), a virtuous young woman forced to become a prostitute as the only way to support her family.
The fault is not with the actors, who have all done affecting work elsewhere, nor with Robison, whose kaleidoscopic work on A Prayer for Owen Meany for Round House displayed all the imaginative flights this production lacks. Rather, it seems that the bare-bones approach to literature is not the best way to bring this particular work to the stage. The authors toss out epigrams about redemption, power, the nature of morality, and other meaty topics, but they leave little of substance for the audience. As the play progresses, this web of words comes to seem less affecting and ultimately more soporific.
Stapley's set, with its sharply slanted floor and reflective panels, suggests a jail as well as a disordered mind, a concept that works in concert with Kenton Yeager's jarring use of lights and the intense sound design by Matthew M. Nielson. The stabbing musical score, performed by the Bergonzi String Quartet, provides a necessary theatrical depth to the production.
Round House Theatre