Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Delirium
EgoPo Theatre
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Rebecca's recent review of The Legend of Georgia McBride


Chris Anthony, Johnny Smith, and Anthony Crosby
Photo by Dave Sarrafian
EgoPo Theatre's Delirium is the Philadelphia premiere of Theatre O and Enda Walsh's modern adaptation of The Brothers Karamazov. Director Brenna Geffers successfully captures the essence of Dostoyevsky's epic novel and delivers an exciting and unusual theatrical experience. Effective use of music, puppetry, and lighting elevate the work of a consistently excellent ensemble. Emotionally powerful yet unapologetically intellectual, Delirium fully embraces the theological disputes and moral struggles that are central to the novel. Philosophically dense, visually interesting, occasionally disturbing, and frequently funny, the production will reward any theatergoer interested in seeing a serious and thought provoking work.

At its heart, Deliriumis about the relationship between three adult Karamazov brothers suddenly reunited with their domineering abusive father. Robert Smythe is marvelously detestable as cruel father Fyodor. Chris Anthony is appropriately egomaniacal as eldest brother Mitya, who has come to his father in desperate need of funds in order to break off his engagement to Katerina (Kelly McCaughan infuses the role with an intense energy). Johnny Smith is excellent as the brilliant but perpetually frustrated Ivan Karamazov, still nursing an unrequited love for Katerina. Anthony Crosby brings a great sense of depth to the role of youngest brother Alyosha, driven by his religious convictions to heal the rift between his family members with faith and love.

Walsh's adaptation takes place in the present day, reworking the original novel's storyline and dropping some side stories and plot points. The play takes place over just a few days, starting with Mitya's return home and leading up to the opening night of Fyodor's new nightclub. At the opening night party Katerina will try to win back Mitya, Mitya will try to win back the sexy and mysterious Grushenka (Kayla Anthony's performance is strong and sexually charged), and Grushenka will finally have to choose between Mitya and his father. Fyodor's servant Smerdyakov (Ross Beschler's performance is one of the highlights of the production) watches and waits to see how the family drama will play out.

Back stories of Fyodor's wives and sons' childhoods are told as a series of puppet show vignettes. The technique is effective and the use of puppets to tell such distributing tales is uncanny. I do wish that it was easier to distinguish between the puppets; I kept forgetting which figure had which bow-tie and felt like I was missing some things.

Natalia de la Torre's sensational costumes instantly transport Dostoyevsky's infamous brothers into the modern era. Every piece, from Ivan's The Watchmen shirt to Katerina's Gumby costume, is clever and effective. Eric Baker's lighting designs are similarly top notch.

Delirium is not always fast paced, but it is a completely captivating and original. Geffers' ambitious production is an exciting start to the EgoPo's season of re-imagined Russian classics.

Delirium, in a co-production of EgoPo Theatre and IUP, runs through November 13, 2016, at The Latvian Society Theater, 531 North 7th Street in Philadelphia. For tickets go to www.egopo.org or call 267-273-1414.

Cast
Fyodor: Robert Smythe*
Mitya: Chris Anthony
Ivan: Johnny Smith*
Alyosha: Anthony Crosby
Grushenka: Kayla Anthony
Katerina: Kelly McCaughan
Smerdyakov: Ross Beschler*
*Appearing Courtesy of AEA

Crew
Director: Brenna Geffers
Scenic and Puppet Designer: Brian Jones
Lighting Designer: Eric Baker
Sound Designer: Lucas Fendlay
Costumer: Natalia de la Torre
Stage Manager: Jamel Baker
Artistic Director: Lane Savadove
Managing Director: Shayna Freed
Production Manager: Eric Baker


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