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
Robert Woodruff and Bill Camp's adaptation of Dostoyevsky's study of a bilious, spiteful wretch, Notes From Underground (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky), sets the narrative in the unnamed character's St. Petersburg (Russia) apartment and drenches it with snow — still falling as the audience enters the theater. The burly, disheveled Camp plays the role in contemporary dress — a short-sleeve shirt, jeans and bare feet — clutching a video camera that broadcasts his perspective of himself onto a large screen (set by David Zinn).
The story, lifted largely verbatim, tells the saga of a man explaining his own determination to spite the society around him from spite — to prove that he will not be a cog in a machine, even if that proof comes at the cost of his own debasement and destruction.
It's beautifully performed, if at times a bit glib. Camp occasionally underscores a perverse point by wagging his tongue around his mouth. It gets emotionally harrowing, however, with two visits to a local prostitute — a performance of stunning insight and understatement by Merrit Janson, who doubles as a Musician — whom Camp eviscerates for no reason other than to show (to himself) his own worth. Musician Michael Attias also plays a minor role.
The musical backdrop, sparingly used, underscores the literary romanticism spouted so deceitfully by the narrator for the purposes of seduction and betrayal. Woodruff's staging turns this mental clinic/bunker into a place where cruelty, desperation and debasement are placed on a microscope, and broadcast on the walls.
NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND | By FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY, adapted by ROBERT WOODRUFF and BILL CAMP | Presented by YALE REPERTORY THEATRE in association with BARYSHNIKOV ARTS CENTER, 450 W. 37th St., New York | Closed