By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Craig Bilknap stages the work crisply with technical aplomb, though it’s all a bit actorly: Newcomer’s student is an emotionally constant star who wears his guilt on his sleeve, at the cost of some suspense. Dean’s detective makes a nice transition from bubbling frivolity at the outset to thundering resolve as he brings down the gavel of justice. In a number of female roles played by Hawkins, ranging from the prostitute to the pawnbroker, the distinctions between them are subtle, yet their common persona is lucid and pleasing. Bilknap’s overuse of Bill Frogart’s sound design of period orchestral works, often accompanying huge swaths of action, tilts the production into something resembling a romantic-melodramatic film.
Manfred Karge is a German playwright, whose 1988 fantasia, The Conquest of the South Pole (translated by Tinch Minter and Anthony Vivis, for its Royal Court Theatre premiere) has found its way to a few American cities, a list that now includes L.A. thanks to the ambitious programming of a young troupe named Smith and Martin Company.
Again, we have wooden platforms and stairwells (set by Erin Horahan), and a cesspit of unemployent in some undefined city. A quartet of men (played by Bob Kundrat, JB Waterman, Tyler Fowler and John Pick) could easily have escaped into televised football, but instead, without explanation or exposition, enter a comparatively assertive world of dementia, re-enacting the 1911 trek to the South Pole by Norwegian Roald Amundsen and his team, based on a written chronicle that one of them has discovered. That story becomes their virtual reality, enacted around hanging laundry, and exasperating La (Hutchi Hancock), and Braukman’s (Pick) stern wife, who is pregnant by Slupiaek (Kundrat), leader of the deluded pack.
Rory C. Mitchell’s direction offers just the right blend of whimsy and gravitas, and the faux expedition does take on a fantastical reality of its own, juxtaposed against their earthbound disappointments. Also earthbound is the acting technique on display: If the performers here had the training and skill of the company at A Noise Within, and if they possessed the spontaneity and charm of Smith and Martin, great results might ensue. Perhaps they could speak to each other.
In one scene, La guns down Slupiaek’s domesticated pigeons (great stick puppets by Justin McInteer), and Slupiaek’s expression was like that of Heene as he discovered that the authorities were not impressed by his escapade.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT | Adapted by MARILYN CAMPBELL and CURT COLUMBUS from the novel by FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY | Presented by A NOISE WITHIN, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale | Through December 17 | (818) 240-0910, ext. 1
THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE | By MANFRED KARGE | Presented by SMITH AND MARTIN COMPANY at the ELEPHANT PERFORMANCE LAB, 6324 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood | Through November 22 | (323) 960-4429