Anna Karenina | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader
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ANNA KARENINA, Apple Tree Theatre. The score has a rather contemporary sound for a musical set in the 1870s Russia. But then, since Peter Kellogg and Daniel Levine's adaptation of Anna Karenina owes less to Tolstoy than it does to the romantic fictions of Victoria Holt and Margaret Mitchell, historical and literary values are not really the issue here. So settle in with at least three hankies and enjoy a scrumptious good story with no less than two pairs of lovers: the shy Constantine and frivolous Kitty, and Count Vronsky and Anna, the young wife of a middle-aged bureaucrat, Nicolai, whose denial of his emotions makes her easy prey.

Apple Tree Theatre has mounted a high-calorie production complete with lush orchestrations, throngs of graceful waltzers, and dazzling gowns frothing over with frou-frou, the better to fall delicately to the wearer's feet before the obligatory roll on the rug. Susan Moniz, whose magnificent voice demonstrates that good things can indeed be found in small packages, makes a vulnerable and waiflike Anna and Tracy Hultgren and Jennifer Rosin are a charming pair of cardboard comic lovers as Constantine and Kitty. But in a role that requires nothing if not huge amounts of animal attraction, Robert D. Mammana as Vronsky is uncharismatic and wooden. Ironically Nicolai, the cuckolded husband torn between pride and the prompting of his heart, is the most complex of all, and Scott Schumacher mines his role for every nuance.

"How does it feel to be falling in love, over and over, without ever really caring about anybody?" a character asks of a fashionably philandering husband. Tolstoy wrote an astonishingly modern novel--a number of theater patrons departed amid discussions of how Anna's unhappy fate might have been circumvented. It seems the small domestic tragedies still occur.

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