Giles puts mark on retelling of Tolstoy tale
Be wary of your seatmates when on a journey.
Travelers frequently form an instant intimacy with fellow voyagers and end up revealing secrets and inner conflicts they wouldn't share with their best friends.
As in Russian author Leo Tolstoy's 1889 novella “Kreutzer Sonata” on which the play is based, Pozdynyshev, a self-justifying, jealous, middle-age man, unburdens himself to fellow passengers while on a train to an unspecified destination somewhere in late 19th-century Russia.
What could be excruciatingly boring or embarrassing in real-life also can make for interesting drama.
Pozdynyshev reveals his version of the events, actions and attitudes that led to the violent ending of his marriage along with his philosophical takes on marriage, women, child-rearing and sex.
Anyone who has struggled through Tolstoy's opinionated, extended journey across this terrain will appreciate that Harris has turned it into an 80-minute jaunt that retains the salient points of Tolstoy's ideas while putting the focus on unfolding events of the couple's relationship from first meeting to final parting.
In this single-actor short play, the ever-interesting Martin Giles creates Pozdynyshev as a self-centered, entitled aristocrat who reveals far more than he thinks while explaining events from his point of view.
For instance, Pozdynyshev never gives his wife a name. He refers to her as “my wife.”
The audience becomes his fellow passengers in the rail compartment as he relates his story.
While explaining how he became the victim of an affair between his wife and his friend, he also reveals his jealousy, unreasoning suspicions and general insecurities, much to the audience's amusement.
As he narrates the story of his marriage, he's haunted by snippets of the Kreutzer Sonata, a duet for piano and violin that signifies the real, nonphysical betrayal engaged in by his wife and friend.
Giles, a veteran of several single-performer dramas, has a narrator's talent for making these characters and events come alive. So it's somewhat puzzling why director Alan Stanford and the design team felt it was necessary to embellish the surroundings with a profusion of projections and an abundance of cloth-draped furniture.
The furniture does represent multiple locations in the tale and gives Giles' character a reason to move around the stage.
And images of Alaine Fink and Juan Jaramillo, the pianist and violinist who appear briefly as Pozdynyshev's wife and his friend Trukhachevski, only marginally enhance our understanding of the bond that may exist between them. Others, such as a blazing fireplace or a wooden door projected on an upturned rowboat only distract from the recounting of events.
The artistic team might have been better advised to trust Harris' script and Giles' talents to convey the story's drama, interest, humor and delicious ambiguity.
“The Kreutzer Sonata” continues through June 22 at the Henry Heymann Theatre in Oakland at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays and June 22; 7 p.m. June 18. Admission is $25 to $48. Details: 412-561-6000 or www.picttheatre.org
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Rutherford falling apart, too
- Pa. Senate’s top leader backs liquor privatization bill
- Police intercept drug courier returning to Western Pennsylvania with 316 bricks of heroin
- Steelers bring in 2 more cornerbacks for visits
- Woman struck by foul ball in ‘horrid’ scene at Pirates game
- Monongahela man gets 18 to 36 years for kidnapping, rape and torture of 21-year-old woman
- Hyde Park woman will stand trial on charges she had sex with a teenage boy
- Expert: Plum district’s silence about sex allegations could erode trust
- Authorities investigating as many as 20 dogs found dead in Hopewell
- Plum triumphs in meeting of section leaders
- Brentwood Borough School Board approves major cutbacks