Open Heart

Book-It's Anna Karenina draws you deep into Tolstoy's epic romance.

By Audrey L.


Book-It’s Anna Karenina begins with a whirlwind of characters, plots, and secrets dancing before the audience’s eyes. Overwhelming at first, this intricate culture collage melds together with each character, plot, and secret, highlighting a different facet of the tragic life of Anna Karenina.

Anna, played by the elegant Emily Grogan, is a wealthy Russian woman married to Karenin (played in a delightfully quirky manner by Andrew DeRycke) with a cherished son Seriozha (played by Montserrat Fleck for the opening performance). Unexpectedly, she falls in love with her friend Kitty’s husband-to-be, Count Vronsky (the dashing Scott Ward Abernethy) as the burly Levin (David Anthony Lewis) begins to pursue Kitty. Anna and Vronsky’s love becomes the theme of the play, spinning plot after plot into a Russian soap-opera with a tragic twist.

Leo Tolstoy, the author of the novel from which this play is adapted, wasn’t exactly who you’d expect the mastermind of a brilliant Russian affair to be. An ascetic Christian moralist, Tolstoy wore his beard long, fathered thirteen children, and later rejected many of his epic-length novels. Despite this apparent disconnect between author and work, Anna Karenina is considered one of the finest examples of Russian literature ever created; such high praise makes it all the more difficult to adapt the novel for a stage. Kevin McKeon, the adapter, manages to capture the essence of the novel while ensuring that the audience remains engaged from start to end of a two hour and forty-five minute play.

Photo by Alan Alabastro

In addition, you’ll get to see intricately beautiful costumes (costume designer Jocelyne Fowler created more than forty pieces!) and impressive dance moves, courtesy of the innovative Book-It Repertory Theatre. Book-It effortlessly blends narration with conversation to narrow the gap between page and stage. Each play reads like a book while painting a visual portrait of the selected novel’s plot. At the Center Theatre (Book-It’s home), the audience sits above a center stage allowing each viewer to see the entire scene in one glance. The set is minimalist, and rightly so: only through the words and actions of the truly excellent actors will the audience begin to understand the deeper nuances and motifs hidden deep within the text of the original novel but exposed through Book-It’s revolutionary novel-plays.

If you’ve ever wanted to read Leo Tolstoy but taken one glance at the lengths of his novels and run away, do not fear: Book-It Theatre has come to bring you the book without the endless page turns. A visual, aural, and intellectual treat, Anna Karenina is not to be missed.

Anna Karenina
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Closes March 3

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