Trinity’s Crime and Punishment is a Must-See


Mark Turek

Forget Avdotya and Pulcheria and Luzhin. Even character foil and “intelligent one,” Razumikhin — he’s a goner. Trinity's Curt Columbus and Marilyn Campbell cleaved out major characters and plot points to present a stunning skeleton of Crime and Punishment, onstage at Trinity Rep now through February 24.

Dostoyevsky’s 150-year-old magnum opus is as relevant in America today as ever: Young Raskolnikov is an out-of-work dropout living in a seedy, past-due apartment. He survives by pawning off sentimental items: a ring, his father’s silver pocket watch. But it isn’t much of a life, and he’s not nearly covering his cost-of-living expenses.

Big nihilistic ideas from his law school days inspire him to murder and rob his callous pawnbroker and, though unplanned, her pious half-sister. We’re made to watch a savage flashback of the murders, as well as several cerebral interrogations following the act with Detective Porfiry, played by a commanding, yet not-too-antagonistic, Dan Butler.

Butler also doubles as Marmeladov, a drunken ticking-time-bomb of a man who dies beneath the wheel of a carriage. Raskolnikov brings Marmeladov’s mangled body home so his daughter, Sonia, a teenage prostitute and devout Christian played by Rachel Christopher, can see him one last time. Christopher also tackles roles as the pawnbroker and her half-sister. Her time onstage felt disjointed and short, but her acting was nonetheless chilling.

The night’s greatest achievement, however, was Trinity resident actor Stephen Thorne as Raskolnikov. Thorne’s Raskolnikov has this pitiable way about him, and looks physically sad with an overgrown beard and waif of a frame. He’s a grown man, yet his boyishness is the driving force behind an intimate, sympathetic connection with the audience. He’s brilliant in his duct-taped coat — trying to get away with murder while drowning in his own philosophical ideas.

The video cameras don’t hurt, either.

At several points onstage, cameras zoom in to capture the most expressive moments. Three fuzzy televisions are stacked at stage left, and one vibrant color set is propped behind a glass-paned wall. All are tuned to the same gripping channel.

It’s clear how Columbus and his team landed on this approach: We must look in the eyes of the actors and truly see Raskolnikov, Porfiry and Sonia. We need to witness their decency and their total depravity up close. Then we can take a look at ourselves and see that while we’re good, we’re also capable of evil. And only some of us can — or, in this case, are willing to — get away with it.

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