|Photo by Mathieu Lindquist|
|Gregory Yang, Taylor Van Denburgh, Brian O'Neal, Emily A. Grodzik, Tara Lucchino, Andrew Sass, Nicholas Nelson, Audrey Park, Karissa Lade, Adam King, Brian Hesser|
Maxim Gorky wrote The Lower Depths
at the turn of the 20th century, illuminating the plight of the Russian underclass. Since then, it has been staged (and filmed) numerous times. Suffering, pain, hope, and community are universal human emotions, after all.
Nimbus Theater's new adaptation (from director Josh Cragun) moves the action to the Great Depression in a strong, well thought out, and acted new production. The heart of the sprawling story remains intact here.
The play stays in the basement throughout, with only occasional sounds from the home's upstairs to indicate that the outside world exists at all. As the action plays out on Zach Morgan's excellent set, we get to know the bevy of characters as well as where they have been and where they hope to be in the future.
The play gives each of the massive company of roles (actually reduced from the original) some time in the spotlight. There's the Duchess (Marcia Svaleson), a woman who has fallen hard after the Stock Market Crash. The Actor (Nicholas Nelson) has been turned to a drunken wreck, poisoned by too much alcohol.
Into all of this comes Luka (Art Peden), a traveler with a strong philosophical bent who calmly observes and comments on the chaos around him, which includes the final death throws of one character and bitter resentments and violence from the family who owns the home they inhabit.
The acting company is strong throughout, led by an electric Andrew Sass as thief Karl. There is a glower and anger at the heart of the performance, but also enough of the pain in the background to make him a thoroughly rounded character.
In a season full of heartwarming treacle about the importance of family and sharing, it's heartening to see a show that honestly deals with those issues, alongside vital topics like economic disparity and the plight of those on the margins of society.
IF YOU GO:
The Lower Depths
Through December 22
7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays
1517 Central Ave. NE., Minneapolis
$10 Thursdays and Sundays; $15 Fridays and Saturdays
Tickets are available by calling 612.548.1380 or visiting online.
1517 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN