Dostoyevsky's Masterpiece
The Idiot

By Fyodor Dostoyevsky

presented May 2011

Fresh on the the heels of its critically acclaimed production of "Mother Courage,"  OFF THE WALL THEATRE ended it's season with a stage version of another timeless classic, Dostoevsky's masterpiece "The Idiot." 

A profoundly passionate story of Russian love and jealousy, spiritualism and despair, music and dance, The Idiot truly has everything one could wish in a theatre experience. Prince Myshkin, a truly good man arrives in St. Petersburg after convalescing for years in a hospital, stricken with epilepsy. So honest is Myshkin that almost no one can stand him. He sees into the hearts and minds of those around him and reveals them to themselves. He gets caught up in a love triangle between himself, Rogozhin a drunken libertine and Nastasya, a wild young girl trying to escape from being a kept woman to an older man. At times the play is wildly comedic, populated with an embarrassment of rich eccentric characters, and at other times the play is hopelessly romantic, one of the great love stories of all literature.

Gutzman brought together fourteen diverse actors to tell his story, along with Russian songs and dances. The play became a rich cultural event as well as moving theatre. Eric Nelson, seen previously at Into The Woods and Alice In Wonderland played the hypnotically attractive prince, and the immensely talented Jeremy Welter played Rogozhin, his nemesis.

Stephanie Staszak a newcomer to OFF THE WALL played Nastasya Filipovna, one of the most amazing female characters ever written. A women driven to sell herself for money one minute, and then to throw the money into a burning fire the next. Karl Miller played the sycophant Lebedev, who lies and cheats his way into the lives and pocketbooks of others. Jacquline Roush played Aglaya, a spoiled young girl who falls madly in love with Prince Myshkin.

 Also in this star studded cast were David Roper as one of both Aglaya and Nastaysa's suitors, Marilyn White and Lawrence Lukasavage as Aglaya's parents, Donna Lobash,  Sara Zientek, Tomas Welcenbah, Mark Ninneman, Sandy Lewis, Barbara Weller, and Glen Quarrie.

The set as always proved more than just interesting. The play covers all four seasons, a variety of locations, and is imbued with Russian atmosphere. Gutzman, who has twice directed theatre in Russia and the Ukraine, brought a flavor of the period and the place to Off the Wall's tiny stage. He also directed a stage version of The Idiot once before with Norman Moses in the role of Prince Myshkin and Gutzman himself playing Rogozhin.

Russian gypsy songs and the music of Rachmoninoff brought an authentic feel to the proceedings. And like all true Russian stories, passions flaired to almost absurdist levels. Promises and betrayals, death threats and acts of violence, outpourings of compassion and love, spiritual awakenings and rejections of religion, all took place on the tiny OFF THE WALL stage as we closed our 2010-11 season with a thunderous production of Dostoevsky's The Idiot.