The Power of Darkness

  • Date:
    September 1, 2007
    Review by:
    Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus.

    A Review by Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus.

    And you thought "War and Peace" was long? "Power of Darkness" by Leo Tolstoy, mercifully the only play he ever wrote, is a three-hour saga of one of the most miserable families ever to populate the earth, and it takes longer than the Russian Revolution to tell their story.

    Written in 1886, Tolstoy has created a play filled with one-dimensional stock characters that have none of the dimensions of personality that make the characters in his novels so memorable. In "Power," we watch the ugly behavior of the tyrannical husband, the neglected wife, the town troublemaker, the pregnant ing�nue, and the philandering boyfriend. Together, this motley group of reprobates commit murder, adultery, infanticide and grand larceny.

    This all might be bearable, especially since the grim story is engrossing, if there were at least a touch of humor, but alas, it remains deadly heavy throughout. See it only if you're a Tolstoy fan.

    Barbara Mehlman & Geri Manus

    What the press had to say.....

    �There�s so much drama (adultery, drunkenness, poisoning) on the march toward redemption that there�s no time for Chekhovian discussion, character development or any ambiguity. Tolstoy just keeps increasing the stakes of the immorality until he reaches a climax with a powerful, unsparing scene."
    New York Times

    "Director Martin Platt...locates a compelling naturalism in the big cast's smallest roles.", "The plot moves with the engaging momentum of a page-turner." & "According to the program note, he wrote this at the request of a Moscow director who wanted to produce 'popular and universally accessible plays.' And so it deserves to be."

    "Banned in Russia for a decade ("You need nerves of steel to withstand it," one censor wrote), the 1886 drama still packs a punch for its shocking depiction of infanticide." & "Tolstoy is no Turgenev, much less Chekhov. Even with that baby-killing scene presented intact, this powerful, but lugubrious drama -- about a hired hand who robs his master, seduces his wife and daughter, and is brought down by the women he mistreats -- lacks the theatrical graces to stand on its own."