Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intense, Ambitious, Intelligent

About the show

After a successful run last fall, this solo adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's short story chronicling an average man's doomed quest for individuality in a seemingly indifferent city extends to an Off Broadway run,

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Only in his madness does the lowly anti-hero attain greatness! 'Diary of a Madman' centers on Poprishchin, a low-ranking civil servant who yearns to be noticed by the beautiful daughter of a senior official, with whom he has fallen in love. His diary records his gradual slide into insanity.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews


"Cool sound effects and inventive direction cannot compensate for the overwrought performance in this wearying solo play...Volok is quite personable and definitely commands the stage; his performance is heroic but it is so intense and his accent is often intrusive. Comical and sensitive portions are overshadowed by the perpetual ranting...Technically accomplished, Lazarev and Volok's adaptation is faithful to Gogol's tone but is diminished by Volok's misdirected performance." Full Review

Drama Queens Reviews

"Throughout the brilliant painting that is Volok’s performance, every twitch of his face, every jerk of a limb, is another artfully placed brushstroke on the captivating emotional landscape of Poprischin...Volok is particularly engrossing to watch in the moments in which madness utterly consumes Poprischin...In addition to being a powerful and entertaining piece of art, 'Diary of a Madman' is a profound commentary on mental illness, homelessness, and empathy." Full Review

Front Row Center

"A triumph of acting...A performance of beauty and intensity...Volok is not alone on stage. The madness itself is tangible. The people, the dogs, all present. That is the strength of his performance. Mr. Volok is truth...I wish the production trusted him more. I wish they had seen that Gogol’s story and Volok’s performance are enough, so that they would not need to add so many sound and lighting cues that are distracting at best and absolutely overpowering at worst." Full Review

On Stage Blog

"A particularly fine visual and theatrical experience...This adaptation of the original story is very well-written, and is delivered with an energy that vividly displays the dark, psychological troubles of this character...The main highlight of this production is the performance of Volok...He is very clearly immersed in the character and keeps the audience captivated and entertained...Won’t leave you bored for a second." Full Review

NYC Splash

“Merely the most charming trace of Volok's native tongue, Russian, can be detected. What is far more prevalent is his unmistakably Russian soul, which is not dead in the least, but in the guise of the character and narrator of this piece, Poprishin, terribly damaged...Volok’s commitment to his character is unimpeachable. Every glance, movement, sound, word, laugh, and cry of his severely troubled tale is rendered with palpable pain as well as the innocence of truth." Full Review

Local Theatre NY

“The journey of the show reveals the sanity within insanity and the power and fragility of the mind in solitude...Ilia Volok did not disappoint...There were initial moments when lighting flickered and sound effects sounded all-too-canned. When these aspects aligned, the experience was electric...Audiences eager to marvel at the mind and chuckle at the fervent and heartbreaking ingenuity of Ilia Volok’s performance should catch this show.” Full Review

LA Weekly

for a previous production "Gogol's short-prose masterpiece about a petty bureaucrat's dizzying plunge into the lowest depths of madness isn't exactly the stage-friendliest of texts. Which makes Volok's fevered and fascinating one-man turn all the more remarkable...Volok delineates the delirium with a fierce yet finely modulated intensity, while Lazarev's use of costuming to visually underscore Poprishchin's unraveling mind is a grace note to his otherwise spare but engaging production." Full Review

Total Theater

for a previous production "Gogol created a character who is a mixture of rationality and madness, a twisted, tormented soul who is also capable of moments of lucidity and understanding. The interweaving of humor, anger, hatred and delusions of grandeur gives the monologue its dense, complex texture -- and makes it a fiendishly difficult challenge for an actor. Volok rises to the occasion; he gives a powerful and commanding performance that this reviewer will long remember." Full Review


for a previous production "This one-actor play is performed with consummate skill and precision by Ilia Volok, an amazingly talented actor...His rendering of the character of Poprishchin, the titular Madman, is at once both touching and frightening...The direction of the play is simple, elegant, and inspired. Volok and Lazarav don’t make any attempt to elicit sentimental sympathy while still allowing us to feel sorry for the man himself. This is a tightrope act that comes off beautifully.” Full Review

Los Angeles Times

for a previous production "The original translation feels crisper and more contemporary than ubiquitous public domain versions. It’s particularly effective in evoking the Gogol story’s vivid mix of the comic and horrific...But the fact that Poprishchin’s madness is obvious from the outset leaves Volok nowhere to go except the no man’s land of over-the-top, actorly clichés of madness, and a tendency to embellish lines with pregnant dramatic pauses makes the piece slower going than it needs to be." Full Review

Accessibly Live Off-Line

for a previous production "One sees the character Volok portrays morph into a doomed man trapped inside of his forced quarters; A lost soul that sheds into utter madness, making a point of what he is but far from being real...This presentation packs more intense spoken and physical drama than similar stage outings that can last for two or even three acts! Volok’s performance is extremely robust, having its audience hold the desire for more...For a single person showcase, it doesn’t get any better that this!" Full Review

Stage Happenings

for a previous production "A bold and unique actor’s showcase, and a performance well worth attending...The story presents pleasantly timeless and universal themes that seem to tie a thread through time...The staging seems at times obtuse and often does not suit the space...All of this is surmounted by the tour de force performance by Volok...The strong script and commonality of the feelings it conveys lay the groundwork for effective storytelling...Succeeds primarily due to Volok’s fully-committed performance." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Dizzying, Cliched

See it if You want to see someone slip into madness and watch their descent into the world of the crazy. Also does Ferdinand 8 really exists?

Don't see it if You don’t like one man shows. Although his acting very superb

Intelligent, Masterful, Profound

See it if You want to see an incredible actor - Ilia Volok perform a role that is believable. He transforms himself on stage.

Don't see it if You don't like solo shows, don't like any of Gogol's work. Want an upbeat, funny show...this is not it.

Also I gave it a higher score because of the actor. Gogol's work is too hea... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Dizzying, Entertaining

See it if love a rarely done show. So much better than then book

Don't see it if you need a musical or fluffy comedy

Slow, Dated, Entertaining

See it if You like solo shows and are interested in Russian stories. This one seemed to drag a bit, despite a heroic effort by the actor.

Don't see it if You aren't interested in a solo show about a man going mad for the love of a woman he's hardly spoken to.

Funny, Dizzying, Enchanting, Masterful, Moving

See it if Even as the protagonist descends into madness, there is something relatable and uplifting about him. Why did I leave smiling? Superb acting.

Don't see it if You don’t like solo plays. You want more narrative than a single character’s loss of sanity. You don’t want to be moved in an unlikely way.

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if you’re a fan of great acting, and relish the opportunity to sit up-close and personal to enjoy the performance

Don't see it if you’re not a fan of one man shows, or dealing with the raw emotions of mental illness.

Great acting, Overrated

See it if You want to see a great performance and watch a character go completely mad before your very eyes on stage

Don't see it if You usually don’t like plays that only feature one actor

Also I feel like everyone else saying that the performance was great but it... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if you want to see great acting.

Don't see it if you're looking for something light or you're not a fan of one man shows.

Great acting, Intense, Confusing

See it if The acting is very good, Russian Play Drama. The story/play is confusing and all over the place in thought. Its about a man going crazy.

Don't see it if He plays the part excellent that seeing someone going thru crazy/mad may be hard to watch.

Ambitious, Great acting, Riveting, Confusing, Dated

See it if You have an interest in 19th century Russian drama. You want to see an excellent performer. You like intense dramas.

Don't see it if You want a contemporary story. You want a story with a traditional narrative thread: it is a madman's diary, so it's confusing & unfocused.

Intense, Insane, Courageous

See it if you are a fan of the dark, existential school of Russian class warfare lit; would like to watch a man go quite crazy on stage

Don't see it if you have great sensitivity or PTSD around mental illness, delusions & insane asylums; expect a satisfying resolution

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Must see, Riveting

See it if Enjoy solo Tours de force? Want to be dragged along on a characters descent into madness? See it before it closes

Don't see it if Prefer big productions or elaborate staging, not here. Don't like being subjected to the demise of a character, probably should not see it.

Dizzying, Great acting, Intense, Frenetic, Enthralling

See it if you would like an intense one man show chronicling the main character spiraling into madness in a very creative performance.

Don't see it if you would not like to see an intense character study of a deranged man. The script often does not sense, but it's not supposed to...

Also So, a good piece of the script is confusing and doesn't make sense? Ar... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intense, Excruciating

See it if you like russian theatre. Very intense show and acting.

Don't see it if you don't like russian theatre.

Also The theatre was too hot, I had a hard time staying awake because of th... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense

See it if The acting in this one man show was outstanding. A journey of one man into madness.

Don't see it if If you want to see something light, or are not a fan of one man shows.

Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Great writing, Heavy

See it if you would like to see a convincing portrayal of a petty functionary's descent into total madness.

Don't see it if you're craving light fare. Gogol was a farceur, but this adaptation, with its convincing portrayal of a descent into madness, is very heavy.

Also Halfway through this piece I found myself wondering if the stage were ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Dizzying, Great acting, Masterful, Riveting

See it if You'd like a taste of Russian playwriting and/or Gogol, or want to see an actor give everything he's got in 80 minutes. He really delivers.

Don't see it if Madness expressed in a small claustrophobic atmosphere is not easy for you to take, or if the non-uplifting Russian style is not your thing.

Also I can't imagine this piece being performed better. Even if you're mild... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intense, Entertaining, Frenetic

See it if You're looking for a masterful performance of a classic play

Don't see it if you don't enjoy solo shows or are disturbed by depictions of mental illness

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting

See it if you like dramatic one-man shows with a great actor.

Don't see it if you don't want to witness a man falling deeper into madness.

Also Excellent acting but I never felt emotionally involved with the charac... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intelligent, Intense

See it if timely!Poprishchin,as performed by Ilia Volok, is a victim of a dehumanizing society,and a Soul-Crushing job. We feel his isolation and pain

Don't see it if you are sensitive to this topic.

Also Ilia Volok is an extraordinary performer.We experience his character's... Read more Read less

Great acting, Must see, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you like long Russian drama, intricate character development, reflecting futility of ordinary man's quest for his recognition as special

Don't see it if you cannot sit through an intense emotional and physical 80 minutes of solo male monologue of decline into insanity without intermission

Also Includes exquisite effective interjection of various renditions of Una... Read more Read less

Dizzying, Intelligent, Intense, Overrated

See it if You are a Gogol fan and like his heavy handed critiques of class and modern society with its disrespect for individuals. Quite over the top.

Don't see it if There is a limit to your tolerance for unrelenting intensity, overacting, and perhaps overwriting. I have been sufficiently Gogol-ized!

Dark, Dizzying, Confusing

See it if You are interested in stories about mentally ill characters and enjoy piecing the story together.

Don't see it if You prefer sequential and logical stories and do not like over-acted dementia.

Absorbing, Great acting, Profound, Great writing, Great staging

See it if Tour-de-force performance that captivates and spellbounds, with equal parts sadness, whimsy, and madness. Uncomfortably hot theatre.

Don't see it if you do not like solo plays, with a complex character

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Quirky

See it if You want to experience the workings of a deranged mind, with moments of clarity emerging from the morass of madness

Don't see it if You need linear storytelling and are uncomfortable in the presence of irrational behavior.

Cast & Creatives (4)