BWW Reviews: Upstream Theater's Brilliant DIARY OF A MADMAN
When you're a critic and you witness a magical evening of theatre it's hard not to be overly enthused and gush about it, but Upstream Theater's current production of Nikolai Gogol's (adaptation by David Holman) Diary of a Madman is simply brilliant and truly deserving of such praise. Upstream consistently brings quality presentation of plays both old and new, and oft times they're adaptations of classic literature. A pair of splendid performers are guided by an expert hand to create a night of must-see entertainment, as engaging and thought-provoking as any show you've ever seen.
Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin, clerk of the ninth grade, is a troubled soul. Teetering on the brink of insanity he begins to imagine strange and peculiar things. Things like dogs talking and writing to one another. We are witness to his progressive descent into madness as any hope for the love he pines for, or the position he feels he deserves, is unrewarded.
Christopher Harris is remarkable as Poprishchin, and he immediately engages the audience upon his initial appearance, disheveled in his black suit and pale white makeup, and nervously surveying his tiny room. Harris delivers an intense performance that will linger in your memory long after the show itself ends. Magan Wiles is also impressive as three different characters, Tuovi, a Finnish servant, Sophia, the daughter of the Director where Poprishchin toils, and Tatiana, an fellow asylum inmate. Wiles plays each role with distinction, humorously trying to learn a new language as Tuovi, gliding across the stage angelically as Sophia, and hopelessly adrift as Tatiana. Their work together is impeccable, and they're aided in the efforts by the moody and fitting embellishments composed and performed by pianist Joe Dreyer.
Philip Boehm's direction is perfectly imagined and rendered. The interactions between actors (and pianist) is smartly conceived and executed. Michael Heil's off kilter scenic design combines with Steve Carmichaels atmospheric lighting and Katie Donovan's clever costumes, as well as Claudia Mink Horns props, to create just the right mood for this piece.
Go see Upstream Theater's production of Diary of a Madman (playing through October 20, 2013). It's an astounding evening of pure theatre.