Thursday, October 10, 2013

DIARY OF A MADMAN • Upstream Theater

Nikolai Gogol's 1835 short story, adapted by David Holman, chronicles Poprishchin, a civil servant working in St. Petersburg, and his downward spiral into madness through entries in his diary.  Upstream's compelling production of this first person account of one man's descent, is marvelous.

Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin (an impressive Christopher Harris), is a clerk of the ninth grade whose primary job seems to be sharpening quill pens for his boss.  He journals about his disdain for his job in the solitude of his attic apartment, with only the landlady's Finnish servant, Tuovi (Magan Wiles), for occasional company.

Christopher Harris (Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin)
and Magan Wiles (Tuovi).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
After he falls in love with the daughter of his boss, the unattainable Sophia, his infrequent, inconsequential contact with her leads to obsession.  As his obsession grows, so does the awareness of his own insignificance -- a dehumanized cog lost in a sea of governmental bureaucracy.  His daily humiliations start to become rationalized with greater and greater delusions, until he imagines himself to be the king of Spain.

Harris, disheveled and in pale makeup, is completely engaging as Poprishchin.  From his imagined triumphs to his lonely despair, he demands your attention from the first moments and holds it.  Wiles is also very effective as the comical Tuovi, Sophia and a fellow inmate of the asylum.

Christopher Harris (Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Philip Boehm directs with a sure hand with excellent touches from the creative team.  Michael Heil's scenic design uses a raked stage framed with iron bars and quill pens in inkwells bordering the floor.  Steve Carmichael's gloomy lighting sets the mood perfectly and Katie Donovan provides the costumes.  Joe Dreyer provides original piano music that nicely punctuates the action onstage.

Check this play out for a thrilling night of theatre.  It's playing until the 20th.  Don't miss it.


DIARY OF A MADMAN

Written by Nikolai Gogol
Adapted by David Holman
Directed by Philip Boehm
Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Blvd.
through October 20 | tickets: $20 - $30
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm, final Sunday at 3pm

Christopher Harris (Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Cast:
Christopher Harris* (Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin) and Magan Wiles (Tuovi/Sophia/Tatiana).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic design by Michael Heil; costume design by Katie Donovan; lighting design by Steve Carmichael; props by Claudia Mink Horn; stage manager, Patrick Siler.

Musicians:
Joe Dreyer

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