“Animals could never be so artistically cruel as man, ” Ivan, one of the brothers K, offers to his religious brother as what will eventually serve as evidence for God’s non-existence—and is something of a hypothesis for Dostoyevsky’s novel. What’s so admirable about this Lookingglass production is that, moment to moment, it rises to the level of artistry needed to sustain an epic-length and predominantly verbal exploration of such cruelty—and its antidote. The story, of course, is a heavy, dark and unflinching look at the terrible things people do to each other, with a patricide-murder-mystery plot providing a trial that damns everyone for being guilty for everyone else. Cleverly, director Heidi Stillman doesn’t try to counteract the verbosity and constant philosophizing, but instead works somewhat subordinate to the text, and in so doing creates a punk-stylized, sexy production with a fluid set that acts like a set of illustrations for the narrative, and keeps up with the play’s fever pitch. The acting sometimes borders on the frenzied or melodramatic for longer than is comfortable—but hey, that’s what Russian literature seems to do best. (Monica Westin)
At Lookingglass Theatre, 821 North Michigan Avenue, (312)337-0665. Through December 7.