The Hole: Notes From Underground | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Hole: Notes From Underground

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THE HOLE: NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND, Nova Productions, at Factory Theater Company. Playwright Ken Prestininzi would be wise to remove the subtitle from his one-act play: inviting comparisons between this piece and Dostoyevsky's masterful Notes From Underground can only work to his detriment. In Dostoyevsky's thrilling satire, a 40-year-old retired government clerk rages against the mechanistic, deterministic imperatives of 19th-century science and philosophy, trying to prove he's "a man and not a piano key" by giving in to his every irrational desire, even those he knows to be self-destructive. Then a surge of "literary" compassion for a young prostitute named Liza reveals him to be a droopy-eyed romantic, a truth that drives him nearly mad.

Prestininzi's update eliminates the social and historical forces that weigh so heavily on Dostoyevsky's protagonist and give the book its sense of gravity. Instead Prestininzi gives us a reclusive, perspectiveless performance artist who both disdains and yearns for the audience he'll never have. While Dostoyevsky's character quotes Heine and Rousseau, Prestininzi's curiously named Ugmo quotes mostly himself, and despite Greg Howd's committed performance, his travails seem petty and insular. Liza--here a sex worker living across the hall--has no discernible character, making Lisa Dowda's engaging performance a true marvel.

--Justin Hayford

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