A young man, Leo Myshkin—called "Prince Myshkin" due to royal blood somewhere in his past—returns to Russia after 15 years in a Swiss institution where he was treated for severe epilepsy. Carrying nothing but a small bundle, he is at first taken for an idiot by the cynical, jaded society of 1860s St. Petersburg. Gradually, his non-judgmental, forgiving and almost child-like nature bewitches all who meet him, including two of the most beautiful, sought-after women in town: Aglaya, the impulsive younger daughter of the wealthy General Yepanchin; and Nastasya Filipovna, the kept mistress of Totsky, a middle-aged dandy who seduced Nastasya as an underage young girl. Growing tired of Nastasya, Totsky tries to marry her off to one of his flunkies, but the tormented, self-hating Nastasya won't go easily. At a dazzling society party to announce this unwanted engagement, Nastasya meets the Prince, who quickly perceives that she's being victimized by the men in her life. The Prince offers to marry her himself to save her from this horrible fate, moving Nastasya to open her heart to him. Suddenly there is confusion as Rogozhin, a passionate and self-destructive merchant's son, insanely in love with Nastasya, crashes the party with his gang of drunken rowdies and offers to buy Nastasya's hand for 100,000 roubles. Torn between the saintly Myshkin and the unruly and dangerous Rogozhin, Nastasya chooses Rogozhin—certain that she'd only corrupt the "pure and gentle" soul of the Prince. As the Prince chases after Nastasya and Rogozhin, Aglaya Yepanchin falls in love with Myshkin, horrifying her father. The story rapidly builds to a series of violent confrontations as the two women face off, competing for Myshkin right before his horrified eyes, and Rogozhin tries to murder Myshkin when Nastasya cannot erase him from her heart. Gradually, the people surrounding Myshkin begin to destroy him, each wanting him for themselves and not willing to share his love. When Nastasya is murdered by Rogozhin in the play's harrowing climax, Myshkin snaps and lapses back into idiocy: a victim of a society that destroys the best part of itself when it lets greed, lust and power rule.
The story of a saintly, simple young man whose sheer goodness makes him the target of envy and hatred in a corrupt society. "The amusing, baffling and ultimately terrifying world of 19th century St. Petersburg…comes boisterously to life in David Fishelson's adaptation…the impression that remains is how swiftly it moves through Dostoyevsky's intricate plot." —NY Times. "…THE IDIOT…is a thrilling [play] of Dostoyevsky's swirl of madness, sexuality, pride, greed, sacrifice and sainthood made flesh on stage in an almost unbelievably compact adaptation by David Fishelson." —NY Post. "…searing…thrilling…" —Village Voice.