The Possessed | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Possessed 

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The Possessed, Prop Theatre and National Pastime Theater. Featuring a high-voltage cast, a mesmerizing score by Milkbaby, and Joey Wade's stunning scenic design, this ambitious, flawed adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's grimly satirical novel promises an intelligence and intensity it never quite delivers. Michael Hannen's hip, contemporary script blends the book's heightened language with awkward Tarantino-esque dialogue ("This faggot is gonna shit over your life, and you're just gonna eat it."). And he gives his cadre of duplicitous, bloodthirsty revolutionaries an impressive litany of 20th-century characteristics (heroin addiction, cross-dressing) and slogans ("If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem"). But he fails to convey many of the characters' motives and relationships, re-create any of Dostoyevsky's specific satirical targets, or come up with any aims for the characters comparable to overthrowing the Russian government and church.

The performances that director Dado coaxes from her actors range from the morose (Andrew Rothenberg is gripping as the suicidal Nick) to the strangely comic (Jonathan Lavan is buffoonish as a member of a slapstick revolutionary organization), each of which undercuts the others. The intriguing, even sublime speeches and images here are sporadic, and some aspects of the production simply don't work: the lighting design makes David Denman's film sequences practically invisible. This is an uneven production that doesn't approach the technical prowess and dramatic coherence of Lookingglass's recent The Idiot, though it outdoes NBC's wretched Crime and Punishment.

--Adam Langer

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