Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review of Anna Karenina at Lifeline Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Anna Karenina. It was adapted by Jessica Wright Buha from the novel by Leo Tolstoy, and it was directed by Amanda Link. It was about a woman named Anna (Ilse Zacharias) who was married to a boring man, Karenin (Michael Reyes). She wanted more excitement in her life, which now revolves around her child, Seryohza (Michelle Stine). She goes on a trip to help her sister-in law Dolly (Aneisa Hicks) and brother Stiva (Dan Cobbler) reconcile. She meets Count Vronsky (Eric Gerard), who is exactly what she wants: exciting and infatuated with her. Vronsky has a previous arrangement though, with Kitty (Brandi Lee), and she thinks he is going to ask her to marry him. So she's turned down the proposal of Levin (Dan Granata), who is crushed. It is about difficult decisions, trying to find happiness, and regret. I thought this show had an intriguing story that was told in a fascinating way.

They used movement (designed by Kasey Foster) and sound to indicate that something significant was happening in Anna's life. In the early stages, someone is hit by a train, and Anna witnesses it. This is a very significant thing in her life because she has never experienced anything like it before. The ensemble would make swishing movements with their bodies and exhale to recreate the sound of what a train makes when it stops. It makes you feel like time is slowing. This also happens when she meets Vronsky. There the sounds could be people noticing them falling in love, in like gasps, or her own breaths. She thinks a relationship with him would be romantic and breathtaking, but when they first met I thought it would be more dangerous because they were making the same sort of movements they had when the man was hit by a train. I thought that it was interesting how they used the movement and sounds as a sort of foreshadowing. There are other stylized elements in the show. The set (designed by Joanna Iwanicka) had colorful silhouettes of women's profiles that were in the background. They also used different elements of the set to be something different than what they appeared. Like the stairs were used as a buggy and a bed. I think all these stylistic moments were effective for drawing your attention to the moments and making you think about their significance.

Levin and Kitty were my favorite characters because they seemed to be the most logical characters. The reason they loved each other wasn't only because of passion or duty; it was because they saw they could be good together. Since this is based on a novel, of course the relationship had its rocky points, but you could tell they both wanted to work it out. They were a very responsible couple for a novel! Levin went a little crazy, but they tried to get through it. A lot of the time in plays the side couple is not very interesting, but in this play you do get to follow their story apart from that of the main characters. You get to see their troubles, and you are rooting for them the whole way through their relationship. They are pretty adorable. There is one line that Kitty has where she says, "I might be a little bit pregnant." And they are both so happy. Kitty is so charming and adorable that it hurts. And Levin is just so philosophical and lovable. They are kind of a mismatched couple, but it works. I thought the performances were really great; they made me understand why these people should be together even if they were both kind of insane.

I feel like Anna Karenina is sort of an antiheroine. In fact, she goes a little beyond that. There are not many redeemable qualities for her. She abandons her child, is pretty rude to her husband who only wants to do well, and she ends up dismissing Vronsky's worries about them getting married and her getting a divorce. I understand that she is a victim of a sexist society because when she leaves her husband it is considered unacceptable. (Her brother has cheated on his wife, but it doesn't really seem to affect his life outside of his relationship with his wife.) One way she goes beyond being an antiheroine is that she is abandoning her child. She keeps talking about how much she loves him, but it doesn't seem to influence her decision that much. It is hard to like her when she talks about how much she loves people but then doesn't really show it. I do think that she should be able to follow her desires, but I think she should think more about the people around her before immediately indulging in what she wants.

People who would like this show are people who like stylized movement, antiheroines, and adorably mismatched couples who are a little bit pregnant. I think this show sees the story of Anna Karenina in a new and fascinating way. I liked it.

Photos: Suzanne Plunkett

No comments: