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Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre's 'Kreutzer Sonata' blends song, drama

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 7:06 p.m.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Martin Giles, who portrays Pozdynyshev in The Kreutzer Sonata, acts out a scene in which his character lights a cigarette during a rehearsal in the Henry Heymann Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial on May 26, 2013.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Martin Giles portrays Pozdynyshev in “The Kreutzer Sonata,” at the Henry Heymann Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Martin Giles portrays Pozdynyshev in “The Kreutzer Sonata,” at the Henry Heymann Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Martin Giles portrays Pozdynyshev in “The Kreutzer Sonata,” at the Henry Heymann Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland.

Martin Giles is the sole actor in Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre's “The Kreutzer Sonata.”

But he won't be alone onstage.

His acting partners will be violinist Juan Jaramillo, pianist Alaine Fink and the music of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata.

No, it's not a musical, and Giles won't be singing.

But Irish playwright Nancy Harris envisions Beethoven's music as an active participant in the drama.

“Music and its possible interplay with Pozdynshev (Giles' character) are suggested throughout the piece,” Harris says at the start of the script. “He reacts to it, avoids it, perhaps engages with it at various points. ... (The music) triggers memories and thoughts, urging the story forward and helping it to unfold.”

The musicians and their duet exist in Pozdynshev's memory, and snippets of the sonata provide a context and viewpoint for his storytelling.

Harris' 80-minute drama is adapted from Russian author Leo Tolstoy's 1889 novella in which Pozdynshev, a mysterious passenger on a train, reveals his past and the part that Beethoven's music played in the dissolution of his marriage and his life.

“The way the play unfolds — it's a great story and all told really well,” Giles says.

“I think it's a beautiful play, a simple, beautiful play,” says Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre's interim producing artistic director Alan Stanford, who is directing “The Kreutzer Sonata.”

“You couldn't want a better piece of music. It's Beethoven at his best or most orchestral. Always, the instruments are on a par with one another. I assume Tolstoy knew it well when he chose it. It is another character in the play.”

Giles has enormous respect for Tolstoy.

“He's such a great artist. He has something he wants you to know and change you and make you a better person. It's great to be in his presence,” Giles says. “It's a really unique feeling the way I'm sandwiched in between Beethoven and Tolstoy. It's a bit of a challenge to live up to.”

Giles is no stranger to single-actor plays; he's starred in Samuel Beckett's “Krapp's Last Tape” and Eric Bogosian's “Drinking in America.”

“It's a weird, unique challenge, and I like that it's a whole different experience than being in a play with other people,” Giles says. “It's a really different state of being, being onstage by yourself. It's totally unique and an enormous challenge of concentration.”

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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