SIFF Review: The Karamazovs

The play's the thing in Petr Zelenka's adaptation/transposition of Evald Schorm's stage version of Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, played out like an Eastern European take on Vanya on 42nd Street. Instead of an empty theater, a Czech theater troupe arrives in Poland (speaking not a word of the Polish) and rehearses their play in a massive Polish foundry, a massive, ancient relic filled with machinery that becomes the sets. The actors transform the industrial surroundings (where Lech Walesa himself once spoke to the growing Solidarity movement - the "solidarity" tag is emblazoned on a beam) into a world of their own by the conviction of their performance and the audience of workers (including a night watchman mourning the death of his son) is captivated. As was I. The conceit overcomes its contrivances to create riveting theater, so much so that the minor conflicts going on behind the scenes pale next to the drama on this makeshift stage. At times you want the camera to ignore the actors until they enter the stage once more, leaving behind the petty concerns of the modern players for the epic clash of father, sons and brothers.

The Karamazovs Harvard Exit, 9:15 p.m. Weds., June 3 and 11 a.m. Sun., June 7.

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