When playgoers enter the black-box at HERE Arts for Robert Lyons and Kristin Marting’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, they’re ushered into a karaoke lounge of sorts designed by Nick Benacerraf, complete with velvet ropes, fuchsia lighting, fringe curtains, widescreen TVs, and Russian Muzak. Jarringly, the actors wear costumes (by Kate Fry) that suggest the novel’s nineteenth-century setting: breeches, bustles, and corsets.
Between these two times and worlds, the production loses its orientation. Dostoevsky’s protagonist — the artless, young, epileptic Prince Myshkin, who struggles against the shallowness and turbulence of his time — could be the perfect conduit for commenting on our contemporary world. But the play doesn’t live up to its conceptual or theatrical potential, in part because Lyons’s script slashes Dostoevsky’s massive novel down to 75 minutes and four characters. Neither the scenes (which focus on a lovers’ quartet and are set off by huge narrative gaps) nor their set elements (a photo booth, a bar, a bedroom) ever fully cohere.
The show has some high points: Daniel Kublick plays Myshkin with a touching naïveté, and multimedia elements (designed by Ray Sun and Larry Heinemann, with adept engineering by Ben Elling and Travis Wright) bring his seizures vividly to life, suggesting a dreamier stage vocabulary that could have been better utilized throughout. But ultimately, like Dostoevsky’s Prince, Idiot doesn’t ever find its way.
Directed by Kristin Marting
145 Sixth Avenue
Through May 21