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Theater review: 'Crime and Punishment' at A Noise Within

October 29, 2009 |  4:45 pm

Crime 300 Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" is both a gripping thriller and a major doorstop. Now at A Noise Within, you can polish off this dense classic in less time than it takes to clear downtown L.A. at rush hour. Condensing 600 pages of Slavic nihilism into 80 minutes is a feat in itself, but adaptors Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus nearly capture the roiling soul of this 1886 masterpiece.

On Michael Smith's two-tiered wooden set featuring a shabby chaise lounge and a rickety flight of stairs, two relationships play out: An inspector (Robertson Dean) investigating a brutal murder plays cat and mouse with prime suspect Raskolnikov (Michael A. Newcomer), who finds himself drawn to the quiet strength of a prostitute (Holly Hawkins).

Craig Belknap's spare production doesn't always trust its own power -- the period music cues distract rather than enhance -- but his trio of performers draw us in. Newcomer especially compels as the would-be ubermensch who cannot escape his humanity. "Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience," observed Dostoyevsky, "but nothing is a greater cause of suffering." Raskolnikov's story mines that truth like no other.

– Charlotte Stoudt

Photo: Michael A. Newcomer. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

"Crime and Punishment" A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale. 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16; Thursday, Dec. 17; Friday, Nov. 20;  2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21 and Dec. 5; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. Ends Dec. 17. $40-$44. Contact: (818) 240-0910 or Running time: 80 minutes.