Notes From The Underground is a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
It is considered to be one of the first Existential novels and is basically a first-person monologue told by a grumpy, aging, retired civil servant living in abject squalor in St Petersburg in about 1870…intrigued?
Mr Cedar’s very clever adaptation of this iconic novella begets a rather wonderful 90-minute version of one sad little man’s diatribe on the misery of his life and how much he needs his pain to be happy. As we get to know the “Underground man” as he has been referred to over the years, we can see beyond his brittle obnoxious nature and glimpse perhaps a little of the origin of his loneliness. His unfortunate ability to upset and irritate, his perpetual need for acceptance and approval and belonging… even as he isolates himself and shuns those who might befriend and even love him.
He is us, of course. At our most bereft and hopeless and our most painful, but also at our most honest and human.
This fascinating play, a 90-minute romp amongst a 18th century Russian’s paranoia and cruelty is actually a lot of fun…paradoxically…
Mr Cedar brings this annoying and self-destructive man to life in a magical way that creates a bond of camaraderie between the audience and the actor. As he spills his tortured and twitching adolescent psychosis across the stage he flits, like some odd bird, and flutters. A man so self-obsessed and narcissistic that nothing, not one single thing exists if not to diminish and destroy him…not even himself.
It might seem curious to you that an hour and a half of one actor channeling a frustrating and vengeful Dostoevskian character with a disdain for mankind and a penchant for garish dressing gowns could be the makings of a pleasant evening…but I must tell you that it truly, truly is…In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with this loathsome little man. He struggles through various painful interactions with old school friends and one rather unfortunate prostitute..all of which he manages to royally make a mess of, and yet somehow, even as he ruminates on how terribly badly he behaves, it’s never ultimately his own fault…remind you of anyone?
Mr Cedar astonishes with his intimate portrait of sad isolationism and astounds with his ability to hold an audience spellbound and to remember all those words! For heaven sake, how on earth…
The play is beautifully presented with plenty to route us to this time and place and, although it could have become a bit pretentious, it avoids it entirely, giving us instead something strangely joyful from the gloomy Russian obsessive Dostoevsky…who knew?
I highly recommend “Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes From the Underground” at The Sherry Theatre…if existential is your cup of tea, then don’t dawdle, get a move on…it’s a very short run…far too soon it will totally cease to exist in fact…
Larry & Pamela Cedar Present “Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes From the Underground”
Adapted by and Staring Larry Cedar
Direction & Set Design by Pamela Cedar
Scenic Design by Jaqueline Cedar