Last week I was looking for a play to go see, so I decided to check out some of the local theaters to see what was showing. St. Louis is filled with theaters and venues, but as an expatriate I only had the Fox, the Muny, and the Tivoli come to mind when considering where to see a show. Thank goodness for technology, because a quick Google search revealed a myriad of plays scattered in theaters across the city.
My goal was to find a show somewhere I typically wouldn’t go, and surprisingly I quickly stumbled upon dozens of plays showing at the same time in St. Louis. With so many choices it was difficult for me to make a decision until I saw Nikolai Gogol’s farcical story “Diary of a Madman” showing at the Kranzberg Art Center located just north of campus on Grand Boulevard.
My search came to an abrupt halt because I was sold. I love Russian literature and was so excited to see the portrayal of this short story at a local theater. Two tickets were purchased immediately and a suspecting but reluctant bystander quickly became my company for the evening.
For those unfamiliar with the work, “Diary of a Madman” is among the most influential short stories of 19th century Russian literature. In the story, Gogol dramatizes the gradual descent into madness and eventual institutionalization of Poprishchin, a low-level clerk in 19th that the satire and allegories used by Gogol can be quite difficult to understand without reflection or explanation, I was quite curious to see if my friend would have any trouble understanding the story.
I was left speechless by the Kranzberg’s successful rendering of “Diary of a Madman.”
The social estrangement, owed to the desensitizing nature of a society austerely defined by strict stratification, was incredible to witness upon the stage. The cast of the play masterfully depicted Gogol’s vicious critiques of status and his views on the inherent complexes of the upper strata of 19th century St. Petersburg. The main character, portrayed by Christopher Harris, was truly believable while St. Louis-native Magan Wiles was responsible for three separate roles. Each were drastically different and beautifully portrayed by Wiles, who returned from New York for the month to partake in “Diary of a Madman.”
I would highly recommend going to check out other plays at the Kranzberg Art Center. I was honestly left speechless by this one!