Going Big On Governors Island

The most esoteric play of the year award goes to Lincoln Center Festival production of Dostoevsky's Demons. The source novel is a 700+ page story of a political assassination among a radical student group in 19th century Tsarist Russia. It's dark, laborious, difficult to follow, and one of the best books I've ever read. In its own convoluted way it's a bit of a page turner, once you fall into the rhythm of the prose.

The upcoming New York production, of which only two performances will be held, does justice to the novel in length if not content. The play is 12 hours long, performed in Italian, and will be produced on Governor's Island. Audience members will need to take a ferry from Manhattan to the island then walk to the warehouse where it is being staged.

It's unlikely I will see the play, but I love the fact that it is being produced. Having just come off an eight month literary journey of reading all the major Dostoevsky works, as well as the Joseph Frank cinder-block sized biography, I have an appreciation for his genius and the demands it makes upon the reader. While I can't vouch for the quality of the performance, the scope and duration is exactly the type of translation a work of this magnitude calls for, an ideal translation of user experience.

We've all sat through movie adaptations of books that, by necessity, eviscerated the plot to conform to the demands of a two hour running time. This play does the opposite, which seems to be the only way an adequate translation of the book could be accomplished.

In a world of the Kindle, which conveys information but not experience; and increasingly shortened attention spans that substitute scanning for comprehension, it's gratifying to see a production that pushes boundaries and tests stamina.