Field Guide – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Brushing up on your Russian literature, namely the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, would help your understanding of this decidedly different interpretation of “The Brothers Karamazov” created by the ensemble group Rude Mechs. Commissioned as a world premiere by the Yale Repertory Theatre, it meets the performance group’s mission of producing original, live works “peppered with big ideas, cheap laughs and dizzying spectacle.”

This is the third time Rude Mechs, located in Austin, Texas, has been invited to the Yale Rep, previously with “Now Now Oh Now” and “The Method Gun.” Today with “Field Guide,” the group will explore the different relationship of father to sons until Sunday, February 17.

Fyodor Karamazov is not about to win any Best Father of the Year Awards. He marries and discards wives without concern or care, and treats his sons as if they do not exist. No one would blame the boys in question for being less than affectionate and more than steeped in anger and resentment for this patriarch. Their disdain even borders on plots to permanently eliminate the old man.

Rude Mechs comes with a complete ensemble of actors: Lowell Bartholomee as the father Fyodor, the vulgar, money grubbing seducer of young women, Thomas Graves as the intellectual, often philosophizing son Ivan, Lana Lesley as the brave soldier Dmitri who is engaged to one woman while actively pursuing another and needs his inheritance quickly, Mari Akita as the kind, faithful son who is studying to enter the monastery and who dances, Robert S. Fisher as the bastard son Smerdyakov who is ignored even more than his legitimate siblings and Hannah Kenah as s trio of characters, two desirable ladies who are sought after, Katya and Grushenka, and the servant Grigory.

In this quite unusual work, look for stand-up comedy about such diverse topics as forever stamps and ziplock bags and even a joke or two by a giant bear, theories about the existence of no ugly women, pleas for receiving promised legacies, violent family reunions, cardboard furniture that moves mysteriously, greed, jealousy and a giant Bounce House. The world of the Karamazov Brothers is definitely bizarre and will not be to everyone’s theatrical palate. Shawn Sides directs this inventive riff of Russian literature.

For tickets ($12-99), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Enter the menagerie at your own risk, as many of the animals bite, as good and evil battle for all the winnings and a giant well deserved glass of vodka.

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