Part two of a four-part review.
11:05 A.M. The play starts. I’m briefly excited. It’s strange to see Dostoevsky’s weird, garrulous narrator—weird, in the book, because he knows all this stuff he couldn’t possibly know, and narrates in first-person plural (“we”) from the perspective of the townspeople—represented by a slight bearded Italian, who appears playing the piano. He explains that the little piece he is playing is called “Franco-Prussian War,” and that he and his friends use it to cover up the sound of their discussion about freethinking. He’s a good actor and not bad at playing the piano.
11:20 A.M. The exposition is taking forever. The poor narrator. He has to introduce so many characters! First he sets up the friendship between Stepan Trofimovich and Varvara Petrovna (the older characters). Then he has to introduce the circle of freethinkers. There are like eight of them. Then there is the young generation: Stepan Trofimovich’s son, Pyotr, and Varvara Petrovna’s son, Nikolai, and Varvara Petrovna’s ward, Dasha, who is the sister of one of the freethinkers, and then Varvara Petrovna’s friend’s daughter, Liza. Liza and Nikolai and Dasha have been having a love triangle in Switzerland.
11:30 A.M. It’s interesting how important Switzerland is in the novel. You never actually see anything that happens there, but the characters talk about it. That works well in a play.
11:32 A.M. The eight freethinkers are having a reunion at Stepan Trofimovich’s house. They keep greeting each other by name, but it’s impossible to tell them apart, especially since there is a time lag with the supertitles.
11:37 A.M. When will these freethinkers stop reveling? And is the one with glasses Virginsky or Liputin? The narrator is playing an accordion.
11:45 A.M. The one with glasses is Shigalyov. Nikolai comes in. He’s just back from Switzerland. He’s supposed to be this charismatic demonic diabolically handsome character with an empty soul, who ruins everyone’s lives out of his spiritual emptiness. The actor is doing a good job of appearing empty, but that’s it. He looks like a skinny Brad Pitt, complete with the strange beard. I do not find him charismatic.
12:10 A.M. Varvara Petrovna is calling Dasha an idiot. “Crrretina! Crrretina!” she shouts. The seven-year-old girl in the audience is clinging to her mother’s neck and whispering something in her ear, very intently. The LA Times critic sighs and shifts his weight. I wince and try to scoot back in my chair, but collide with the knees of the person behind me (a man wearing shorts), probably causing him acute pain. I feel one with the awesome cycle of life.
12:20 P.M. “Captain Lebyadkin whips his pretty, lame, retarded younger sister,” someone remarks. Now that was an efficient sentence.
12:30 P.M. Stepan Trofimovich doesn’t want to marry Dasha, but the wedding is scheduled for Sunday. “Couldn’t there be a week with no Sunday? Couldn’t God cancel Sunday, just once, to prove to an atheist that he exists?”
I think that was the first funny line. People have been laughing at every other line though. Whenever anyone mentions anything related to theater (like when Varvara Petrovna calls Stepan Trofimovich a “bad actor”), they chuckle knowingly. I find this annoying, even though I know it’s really just a form of politeness. Read More