Lifeline Theatre’s “The Count of Monte Cristo” tells the story of a man falsely imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.
It’s based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas. While in prison, Edmond Dantes meets a fatherly figure that bestows upon him knowledge, culture and the means of obtaining a vast fortune, while he plots his vengeance against the three men that set him up.
It is one of our culture’s most infamous tales of stone cold revenge, as Edmond escapes his jailers, takes up the mantle of the fictional Count, and systematically and ruthlessly takes down his foes.
Sadly, the production can never quite get out from under the weight of its own machinations. Dumas’ tome of more than 500 pages is rife with subplots that adapter Christopher M. Walsh wisely trims from his own script. Yet the intricacies that remain are so complex that scenes follow one after the next in the perfunctory manner of keeping us straight on the plot. They’re like beads strung on a wire, ticking off each point rather than building a cohesive narrative about a man who has fallen into such darkness, he would destroy his own life just to ensure the ruination of others.
Still, Chris Hainsworth, with his dark features and flowing black hair, cuts a striking figure as the Count. He plays the role like a vengeful puppet master with a twinkle in his eye; the method works on some occasions, like when Edmond is dealing with the affected and traitorous banker Danglars (John Ferrick). But other times I wished that instead of black humor, we saw the emotional toll of the Count’s blackened heart.
Edmond’s best scenes are with the wily and wise Abbe Faria (Don Bender), the fellow elderly prisoner who sets him on his path, and his lost love Mercedes (Jennifer Tyler). Tyler’s performance was my favorite, as she brings an anguished grace to the role of the woman who thought the love of her life dead, was tricked into marrying one of his betrayers, and finally learns the truth when it is far, far too late for any of them.
“The Count of Monte Cristo” runs through October 30 at the Lifeline Theatre. For ticket information, call the box office at 773-761-4477 or visit lifelinetheatre.com. The play runs approximately two and a half hours, with one intermission.