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Fringe NYC 2015

Poor People

Irene Kapustina

Genre: Drama

Venue: The Kraine Theater


Low Down

A world-premiere adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s classing novel Poor Folk which highlights the shockingly bleak similarities between 19th Century St. Petersburg and 20th Century New York.


You live in New York and you attend the theatre (probably less often than you would like.) Perhaps sometimes, you walk down the street feeling hopelessly alone in a sea of people who are equally alone. Maybe you are struggling to make your rent, maybe you feel like you can’t catch a break. Maybe you are hungry and tired and dreaming of a brighter future. 

You are not alone. 

Poor People: A Stage Adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Novel Poor Folk written by Lavinia Roberts and created/directed by Irene Kapustina is a detailed and heartfelt encounter with loneliness and longing that draws shockingly strong parallels between 19th century St. Petersburg and 21st century New York. The struggle to make it through today. The struggle to imagine a bright tomorrow. Too many people, but few friends. Too much work, but little money. 

The production is unapologetically cold and minimal — an exact mirror of the lives of the characters. Lavinia Roberts’ script is beautifully written bringing colorful words to an otherwise gray world. This adaptation, told primarily through letters and silent dream montages, brings Dostoyevsky’s characters to life. The characters share the stage, share dialogue, share their homes, their work, and their hopes for tomorrow but they never seem truly together. They are all alone. 

Poor People accurately highlights that loneliness and independence are not the same thing. As the play progresses everyone becomes more and more dependent on each other, but no less lonely. For their survival, they must make choices. For the survival of their few loved ones, they must make even more difficult choices. 

Desperation become more severe as the show progresses. By the end of the show emotions are running very high and the final moments are chilling. As each character strives for a way out, their poor resources and unfortunate circumstances keep them from making that climb to a better life. This sad tale is unfortunately not just the type so commonly spun by 19th century Russian novelists. It is the story of today. Poor People lays it all out for us in black and white reminding us that sometimes happy endings aren’t possible.