DOSTOEVSKY TRIP, Elephant Man Theater Company, at Profiles Theatre. Companies marching deep into Russian territory would do well to heed history’s examples–and consider a different front. Especially when the text in question is the literary equivalent of a Russian winter. Postmodern shockster Vladimir Sorokin–whose 2002 pornography charge called attention to the persistence of the old ways in the new Russia–has crafted just such a script, a valley of death for the doomed Elephant brigade.

Truth be told, this fresh-faced troupe is better suited to a Grenada-size adventure. Though not without potential, they’re woefully unprepared for the demands of this nightmare campaign. Under director Alexander Jameson’s hazy command they maintain ragged formation for a while, but as the script devolves into ever-more-trying experimentality, the ranks fall into chaos. One actor wields a painfully cartoonish accent while the rest speak standard American, and everyone emotes at 11, enacting a grim orgy of furrowed brows, clenched jaws, and hate-curdled shrieking.

But like Napoleon’s Grande Armee, the Elephants are ultimately undone by the frigid landscape itself. Sorokin’s mildly provocative conceit posits books and authors as drugs; dosed with Dostoyevsky, the junkie characters thrash through one clumsy half hour of expressionist anguish, then another of primal-memory encounter-group jive culminating in ritual repetition of the word “pooping.” Despite some superficial ties to The Idiot, the text–at least as translated by Luda Jameson–offers little insight into the Russian (or human) condition.