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Anna Karenina

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The self-absorbed insularity of Tolstoy's romantic protagonists makes this novel resistant to stage adaptation. But Helen Edmundson cleverly has Anna and gentleman farmer Levin recount their stories from the afterlife, an expressionistic conceit that not only facilitates the transitions from scene to scene but forces us to view the events from their vantage points. And director Elizabeth Carlin-Metz's visual metaphor of life as a dance (courtesy of Jennifer L. Smith's choreography to Gregor Mortis's meticulously selected waltzes and peasant songs) conveys with vivid elegance the passions simmering beneath the placid social facade. Kelly Lynn Hogan as Anna and Winston Evans as Levin anchor the adroit ensemble in this Vitalist Theatre staging, which commands our attention throughout its two and a half hours. Through 10/30: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM. Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, 773-327-5252. $22; $35 Sat 9/24 (7 PM reading by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko precedes 8 PM show) and Sun 9/25 (2 PM reading by Yevtushenko precedes 3 PM show).

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