The Non-Endless Summer: American Players' 'Crime and Punishment'

July 18, 2011

If you've been thinking that the summer will never end (a reasonable conclusion as the thermometer goes searching for triple digits), allow me to offer a bit of reassurance. Or, actually, a bit of caution: if your goal is to spend a weekend up in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and if (like me) you require that weekend to include the Marilyn Campbell-Curt Columbus Crime and Punishment, it's time to take a look at your schedule and the theater's and see whether you can fit it in.

Why the urgency? Because through August, most performances of the brilliant three-actor adaption of Dostoevsky's work take place on Sunday, meaning that most Chicago theatergoers will be stuck in homeward-bound traffic instead of seated in a theater. Yes, of course, there are other fine plays in the American Players Theatre season, including The Glass Menagerie, The Tempest, Blithe Spirit and Of Mice and Men; but most of these can be seen during any season of Chicago theater. Crime and Punishment is rare, the way perfect diamonds are rare.

The piece received its world premiere at Writers' Theatre in 2003, directed by Artistic Director Michael Halberstam.  Campbell (whose acclaimed poetry adaptation The Beats returns to Berwyn's 16th Street Theatre in September) and Columbus (then at Steppenwolf, now Artistic Director of Trinity Repertory in Rhode Island) did the impossible, rendering the ungainly novel in 95 minutes with such surgical skill that nothing important was omitted. Anyone who saw the show (with Scott Parkinson, John Judd and Susan Bennett) in the back of Books on Vernon (or during its 2007 transfer to New York) will never forget it.

So get thee to a calendar, so you can be sure of getting thee to Crime and Punishment this summer.