Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mosaic Theatre: Diary of a Madman (6 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of The Diary of a Madman on September 20, 2012.
The Diary of a Madman was a recent hit in New York starring Geoffrey Rush as lowly civil servant Poprishchin, driven mad by bureaucracy. A burnt-out paper-pusher who ekes out a meager living in czarist St. Petersburg, Poprishchin spends his days doing menial tasks, anxious and teetering on the brink of lunacy. Or is it lucidity? Immobilized by a rigid social hierarchy, Poprishchin cuts adrift from reality: hallucinating a canine love affair, imagining himself well above his station, and conjuring entire realms both incredible and terrifying. Deeper and deeper he sinks into delusion, and - we, too, are eventually subsumed by a world in which reality is, at best, relative.
Richard Jay Simon directed Ken Clement and Betsy Graver.

Hap Erstein wrote for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...there is a potent satirical point to this portrait of a lackey scribbling his way to insanity, but it is overshadowed by the tour de force performance by the estimable Ken Clement as ninth-grade civil servant Poprishchin, a man who is wildly entertaining even as he loses his grip on reality. is a hypnotic performance arc that Clement and director Richard Jay Simon have charted. It leads us through a series of blackout sketches to a sobering conclusion, in which madness is no joke.
That impact is aided by the Mosaic design team, including Douglas Grinn, who crafts Poprishchin’s dilapidated quarters, K. Blair Brown and her threadbare, moth-eaten costumes, and John Hall, whose lighting charts the shadows of Poprishchin’s descent. In all, this is a Diary worth unlocking and peering into its comic abyss.
Roger Martin reviewed for maimiartzine: Nikolai Gogol's 1835 short story, The Diary of a Madman... David Holman, Neil Armfield and Geoffrey Rush snatched (Poprishchin) out of the pages and planted him on the stage. To our delight. And Richard Jay Simon furthered our delight by starring Ken Clement and Betsy Graver in his current production of Madman at his Mosaic Theatre.
Ken Clement, with his blond Dutch boy haircut, fluttering tongue and nervous giggles reads us his mind as he slowly spirals through laughter and pain into raging dementia. His is a marvelous performance... Clement's excellence is matched by that of Betsy Graver as the timorous Finnish housemaid...
Matt Corey's sound adds tremendous pleasure to The Diary of a Madman... Douglas Grinn, John Hall and K. Blair Brown, designers of the set, lights and costumes are all at their excellent best and the terrific work by both actors, strongly supported by Richard Jay Simon's direction, make this one of Mosaic's best.
John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
What's astonishing is that Nikolai Gogol, writer of the original short story Diary of a Madman, wasn't capitalizing on the existentialist musings of Kafka or the postmodern comedy of Thurber; he anticipated them, having published his story back in 1835. This is worth remembering when the narrative's seemingly familiar ideas (Terry Gilliam's Brazil springs to mind too) begin to play out in this stage version, adapted by David Holman, Neil Armfield, and actor Geoffrey Rush. This was, and is, a profoundly forward-thinking and fiercely political work, and it came almost a century ahead of its time.
Mosaic cast Ken Clement, an imposing, pliable actor who could perform in The Three Stooges as easily as Death of a Salesman... His character undergoes an elliptical transformation from an embittered employee in control of his faculties to an untethered lunatic imagining himself the king of Spain, converting his meager furnishings into a makeshift throne. Clement is emotionally perfect, completely submitting to the lunacy, becoming a crazy person rather than "acting the part."
It's not an easy polarity to pull off, but Clement, director Richard Jay Simon, and Mosaic's design team do. Just as Blair Brown's costumes degenerate from respectable middle-class work attire to a serf's tatters, so too does John Hall's lighting design comment on the character's collapse in its own way, blinding him or shutting off the lights when necessary.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald: we meet the odd, earnest Poprishchin in The Diary of a Madman, his grip is beginning to slip. And over the course of two hours, he will become increasingly unmoored from reality. For the character, it’s tragic; for an audience, it’s a chance to relish the transformative, commanding, passionate work of actor Ken Clement.
Directed by Richard Jay Simon, with lovely supporting work from Betsy Graver as the women (real and imagined) in Poprishchin’s life, Clement forges a path from farce to tragedy, from tight control to the emotional freedom of madness. His Poprishchin is an unremarkable worker bee, a trapped man of extremely modest means who fancies himself meant for better things.
Simon and his collaborators, including sound designer Matt Corey (who artfully weaves Russian music throughout the play), lighting designer John Hall and costume designer K. Blair Brown, have kicked off Mosaic’s season with a challenging piece. Much of The Diary of a Madman is funny, some of it touching. But that humor builds to a devastating final scene. And it is to that deeper place that Clement has been steering us all along.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The terror underlying Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd is that madmen walk among us ignored until their lives of quiet desperation explode or, if we’re lucky, they just melt down.

Their deteriorating orbit is tracked with impressive skill and infinite variety in Ken Clement’s bravura tour de force as the government drone Poprishchin  under Richard Jay Simon’s direction in Mosaic Theatre’s 12th season opener, The Diary of a Madman.
Simon’s production features dozens of silent grace notes such as when Poprishchin takes off a shoe exposing a bare toe sticking through a sock, or when Poprishchin twists the long loose arms of a jacket around his hands in a silent show of anxiety in extremis.
...pull the thesaurus out of the drawer to describe Clement’s performance under Simon’s guidance. Clement has proven year in and year out that he is among the finest actors in the region... Even at his most comic, he communicates an underlying sadness or even menace... Clement throws himself unreservedly into this meld of secret self-doubt papered over by self-delusion that veers into fixations.
Some applause, too, for Graver... Her befuddled serf muttering to herself as she works or trying to understand Poprishchin ‘s increasingly bizarre behavior is delightfully silly.
Kudos are due to Douglas Grinn’s set design... John Hall’s subtle lighting changes, K. Blair Brown’s costumes and Matt Corey’s procession of period Russian music
Richard Cameron reviewed for The Examiner:
Mosaic Theatre... has gone mad, even insane as it presents Florida with one of the most powerful performances yet, The Diary of a Madman starring Carbonell Award winner Ken Clement... Clement has set the bar high for the entire season.
Betsy Graver (Tuovi, Sophia, Tatiana) gives a hysterical performances in three very unique characters.
The Diary of a Madman plays at Mosaic Theatre through October 14, 2012.

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