October 4, 2007

Sin has a palpable, almost Catholic weight in The Power of Darkness, the rediscovered play by Leo Tolstoy now at the Mint. Nikita, a philandering, atheistic farmhand, blithely sleeps with the lady of the house, but only after ruining another girl and racking up countless misdeeds. When the master dies—a departure coaxed along by Nikita’s diabolically amoral mother (played by a chilling Randy Danson)—the consequences are profoundly upsetting, for characters and audience alike.

Martin Platt’s production of his colloquial new English version can be slow at some points, shrill and shouty at others (it’s probably easier watched from row F than from row B), but artistic director Jonathan Bank deserves credit for finding yet another dusty gem. Here’s a story that crams the betrayal, greed, and—in a genuinely nauseating scene—the murdered child of Macbeth into one little Russian town. The Mint gets livelier by the year, not least by finding fresh ways to remind us that there were a lot of bad, bad people in the good old days.