Theater archives

Notes From Underground


“I am a sick man. A cruel man. I am not attractive, and my liver hurts,” declares the disturbed narrator of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground. In Michael Gardner’s excellent adaptation of the groundbreaking novella, the Underground Man is summoned in all his scattered, sweaty psychosis by Robert Honeywell. An unsuccessful civil servant whose sole comfort is his own misery, he loathes society yet craves its acceptance, and the intimate Brick is a fitting venue for his claustrophobic mind. Honeywell, in what is essentially a one-man show, moves with frenetic energy through the cramped, dimly lit space, while disembodied voices—the troubled vestiges of his memory—call out from the audience, lending the production a discomfiting, haunted air. Dostoyevsky has created many voluble misers, but their cumbersome philosophizing can serve as a pitfall for stage adaptations. Gardner has retained the most salient elements of the story—the narrator’s encounter with scornful schoolmates, perceived slights from a haughty military man, a prostitute who just might love him—while Honeywell, crouching in prayer or scampering from his own thoughts, captures the essence of a soul tortured by a world that offers neither solace nor salvation.