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The Old Globe Presents a Wickedly Funny Reimagining of Dostoevsky's 'Crime and Punishment'

by Cassiopeia Guthrie, August 5, 2023

The blackmailing bursar taunts Rodya.
Orville Mendoza and Nik Walker in Crime and Punishment, A Comedy. Photo courtesy of Jim Cox.

Wickedly funny and playful, Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen have delivered a unique brain child in the form of Crime and Punishment, A Comedy, currently running at The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre through August 20.

Directed by Greenberg, the play is an adaptation of Dostoevsky's famous 1866 novel, set as a 90-minute comedy in a landscape of Russian literature, in which five malleable actors play over 50 characters as they embody a tale that loosely follows a young man's trajectory through morality.

The story follows Rodya Raskolnikov (Nik Walker), who has just graduated from law school in Saint Petersburg. His sickly mother (Orville Mendoza, replaced by Andrew Polec beginning August 8) and sister Dunya (Juliet Brett) desperately need money to pay bills, while his father (also Orville Mendoza) is imprisoned in Siberia awaiting an appeal. Afraid for her mother's life, Dunya is close to marrying a wealthy suitor to save her family, despite being secretly in love with Rodya's best friend, Dimitri (Vincent Randazzo). Unable to save his family without the degree being held hostage by a blackmailing bursar, Rodya murders the man in a moment of rage and intoxication yet, in doing so, inadvertently frames Dimitri for the crime. As his world spirals out of control and guilt begins to consume him, it is only the sage advice of barkeep Sonya (Stephanie Gibson) that helps Rodya decide what he must do. The cast also includes understudies Cody Ingram, Jasmine January, and Zakk Mannella.

The full cast appears onstage, cheering in a bar. Two actors wear puppets.
Cast of Crime and Punishment, A Comedy. Photo courtesy of Jim Cox.

Fans of Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show will recognize similar elements in this show. Set in the round, the use of all entrances, aisles, and structural pieces like lamps and window frames advance the quick-paced story and, in truth, all scenic, costume, lighting, and sound components must be intentionally designed and tightly deployed in order to pull it all off. The production team, including Wilson Chin (Scenic Design), Alejo Vietti (Costume Design), Amanda Zieve (Lighting Design), Lindsay Jones (Sound Design), have truly risen to the occasion, and production stage manager Marie Jahelka undoubtedly has her hands full throughout the show.

Everything is executed seamlessly as well-cast actors with exceptional comedic timing transform between characters in an instant. Somehow, we are taken on a journey that feels slightly out of control and yet is tightly woven. This is a testament to the show's moving pieces. I have often seen fast-paced productions and have even produced and performed in them, and it is a special kind of magic... this is a masterclass of what that magic can look like when it is orchestrated singularly.

Four actors dance in dresses and suits, while a fifth smiles in a wheelchair, midstage.
Cast of Crime and Punishment, A Comedy. Photo courtesy of Jim Cox.

On a side note, I was charmed by the script for this production, which I found quippy, eccentric, and accessible. In a program-nested interview, the co-authors note that, while the source material isn't funny, "we hope the way we tell it is. We want audiences to be genuinely engaged by Dostoevsky’s themes of moral relativity, guilt, and social inequity—but also have a great time."

Congratulations, Globe creatives - you have done just that. Crime and Punishment, A Comedy runs through August 20.


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