The Diary of a Madman

“The Diary of a Madman”
a kate west review
written by Nikolai Gogol; adapted by Don Eitner & Tom Troupe
directed by Don Eitner
at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles 90025
call (310) 477-2055; Running January 10 – March 7

Veteran actor Tom Troupe stars in a one-man production of “The Diary of a Madman” which he and Director Don Eitner adapted and re-translated from Ukrainian Nikolai Gogol’s short story of the same name. The main problem with adapting a short story is in expanding a basic premise into a full length story and in translating something from Russian, is in arranging it in intelligible in English. In this case the producers make a valiant attempt; however, the end result is a full hour of the ravings of a madman. Literally.

Tom Troupe plays a nameless impoverished “Clerk” who works in a miserable anonymous European office where, in the words of Gogol himself, “… everyone is drowned by the trivial, meaningless labours at which he spends his useless time.” The Clerk becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his working conditions and escapes more and more into his own fantasy world. For instance, he seemingly believes his hand puppet is a real person but destroys it in a fire in a fit of rage which sends him into dementia. He ends up thinking he is King Ferdinand of Spain and refuses to believe otherwise even when his landlady commits him to an asylum.

Troupe does a fairly good job of depicting a descent into madness but it is not particularly interesting to watch. Unfortunately a gibbering madman does not offer any great moral lessons. It is rather more clinically interesting and perhaps might be one reason Gogol kept it a short story. Also, the sound design is distractingly archaic (by Sound Designer Dale Barnhart). Set Designer Danny Truxaw did build a nice set however, which helps depict the character of the Clerk living in a nondescript dateless European country.

All in all, it is up to each audience member whether or not to give this production a chance. Don’t expect to gain any new insights on the human condition but rather the inner workings of a lunatic.

Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Penguin Classics)

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