You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Crime and Punishment

The weather-beaten life-size image of the crucified Christ looks over Eugene Lee's wonderfully ugly set for "Crime and Punishment" like a disappointed parent witnessing the slow breakdown of Scott Parkinson's remorseful Raskolnikov.

Sonia - Susan Bennett Porfiry Petrovich - John Judd Raskolnikov - Scott Parkinson

The weather-beaten life-size image of the crucified Christ looks over Eugene Lee’s wonderfully ugly set for “Crime and Punishment” like a disappointed parent, witnessing the slow breakdown of Scott Parkinson’s remorseful Raskolnikov. Dostoevsky’s dour, electric narrative of conscience and dreadful necessity isn’t the most obvious choice for a 90-minute thriller, but the Chicago-based Writers’ Theater has produced a sad clown car of a play, unpacking more characters and clever tricks than it should logically be able to hold.

“Crime and Punishment” isn’t exactly a traditional murder mystery — it’s pretty clear whodunit from the word “go” — but in order to structure the novel for the stage, adaptors Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus have centered the play on the visits Raskolnikov pays to curious cop Porfiry (John Judd), Raskolnikov’s pursuer and, in an odd way, his friend. Between these visits (and sometimes during them), Raskolnikov flashes back to the events of the case and visits his friend Sonia (Susan Bennett), a prostitute who’s just lost her alcoholic father.

The play’s flashy structural mechanics are a high wire act, but they’re not empty posturing. Reflecting the novel’s interiority, the play is set almost entirely in Raskolnikov’s head, and the writers and director Michael Halberstam have come up with a number of ways for Raskolnikov’s conscience to sucker punch him.

Everywhere he turns, our hero is dogged by highly theatrical guilt, whether it’s simply a lighting change, or a door that opens onto darkness and a voice rasping “Murderer!” Whenever his mind lapses toward thoughts of his crime, the other characters exit the stage quickly using Lee’s rotating walls, but they don’t go away.

The people who prey on Raskolnikov’s every thought show up in multiple editions, whether it’s Sonia’s father (also Judd) or Raskolnikov’s victim (also Bennett). The cast doubling takes on a horrifying dimension when we see the young man commit the crime of the title — and the actress he attacks also plays his love and his mother.

Quite a few Russian writers have had something to say about the Angry Young Intellectual, and Dostoevsky is no different. Where Chekhov pokes gentle, complicated fun (at Treplev in “The Seagull,” for example), Dostoevsky goes for the kill, using the young man’s fiery ideology to blind him to his crime and leave him confused. Raskolnikov’s ideas were so good, and yet he still feels as guilty as, well, sin.

“Do you believe in God?” asks Sonia, but Raskolnikov wonders if such a thing even matters.

“It might,” she replies.

For a play as steeped in religious ardor as an adaptation of “Crime and Punishment” is bound to be, the Writers’ Theater is appropriately humble, even tentative about judging Raskolnikov. He may be bad, but if Dostoevsky’s Christianity is correct, isn’t everyone guilty of murder? If so, can anyone be redeemed? It’s a question that literally hangs over the play in the form of the giant crucifix, and Raskolnikov’s final opportunity to atone is both difficult and unattractive. Does he take it? Can he take it?

Things go dark before we can know.

Popular on Variety

Crime and Punishment

59E59; 99 seats; $35 top

Production: A Writers' Theater presentation of a play in one act by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus, adapted from the book by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Directed by Michael Halberstam.

Creative: Set, Eugene Lee; costumes, Theresa Squire; lighting, Keith Parham; sound, Josh Schmidt; production stage manager, Samone B. Weissman. Opened Nov. 1, 2007. Reviewed Nov. 10. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast: Sonia - Susan Bennett Porfiry Petrovich - John Judd Raskolnikov - Scott Parkinson

More Legit

  • Broadway-Breakfast-Split

    Variety to Celebrate Second Business of Broadway Breakfast With Thomas Schumacher, Diane Paulus and Diablo Cody

    Variety has announced the lineup for its second annual Business of Broadway breakfast presented by City National Bank. Joining the breakfast on Oct. 7 is the president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions Thomas Schumacher, who will take part in the event’s keynote conversation. In his position, Thomas oversees the company’s worldwide stage productions, which [...]

  • Sue Wagner John Johnson

    Tony-Winning Producers Sue Wagner and John Johnson Announce New Venture, Wagner Johnson Productions

    Sue Wagner and John Johnson, seven-time Tony award-winning producers, announced Wednesday that they have embarked on a new theatrical business venture, Wagner Johnson Productions. Under the name, they will produce and general manage a wide scope of theater productions. One of Wagner Johnson Productions’ current projects is a musical rendition of “Almost Famous,” which will [...]

  • Sam Rockwell and Laurence Fishburne

    Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne Starring in Broadway Revival of 'American Buffalo'

    Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell will star in an upcoming Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” The show marks Rockwell’s first appearance on the Great White Way since his 2014 performance in the revival of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.” The five-year absence saw him pick up an Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, [...]

  • Secret Derren Brown review

    Broadway Review: 'Derren Brown: Secret'

    Audiences love to be fooled, whether it’s with clever plotting with a twist, the arrival of an unexpected character or even a charming flimflam man with a British accent. The latter is Derren Brown, and he’s entertaining audiences for a limited run at the Cort Theatre, where he is playing head-scratching mind games and other [...]

  • Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica ParkerNew York

    Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker to Reunite on Broadway for 'Plaza Suite'

    Real-life couple Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are hitting the Broadway stage again for a reboot of the late Neil Simon’s 1968 play “Plaza Suite.” The staging will mark the Broadway directorial debut of Tony award-winner John Benjamin Hickey. Set in New York City’s Plaza Hotel in Suite 719, “Plaza Suite” is comprised of [...]

  • Derren Brown

    Listen: Derren Brown Spills His Broadway 'Secret'

    Derren Brown has spent a lot of his career performing magic shows on theater stages — but he’ll be the first to tell you that magic usually doesn’t make for great theater. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “If you’re a magician of any sort, you can make stuff happen with a click of your [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content