Deeper dive: A closer look at ‘Anna Karenina’

Anna KareninaAnna Karenina

  • Written by: Kevin McKeon, adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy
  • Year: Original novel published in 1877; stage adaptation premiered in 2012
  • Director: Chris Coleman
  • Dates: Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens Feb. 1)
  • Where: Stage Theatre
  • Genre: Modern adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic story of love and marriage in Imperial Russia
  • About the authors: Tolstoy, born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, is widely regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He is best known for the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Seattle playwright Kevin McKeon has adapted many books for the stage, including Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars. His adaptation of Anna Karenina was commissioned by Portland Center Stage and was premiered there in 2012. “When you boil it down,” he says of the spawrling source novel, “it’s just a story about people trying to get by and figure it out.”
  • The play at a glance: Love holds the power to bind us together or tear us apart, and no one knows better than Countess Anna Karenina. As a noblewoman and socialite, her glamorous lifestyle shrouds her unhappy marriage. But everything changes when she meets the dashing army officer Count Vronsky. She risks her social status, marriage, friends and family for the thrill of forbidden love. Anna Karenina uses the romantic backdrop of Tsarist Russia to tell a turbulent tale of passion and betrayal, dreams chased and lost, and the consequences of getting swept off your feet. This lush adaptation of Tolstoy’s masterpiece brings the opulent setting and heart-wrenching story to life.
  • Says Artistic Director — and Director — Chris Coleman: “We’ve seen time and time again that Denver audiences have a deep love and appetite for pieces that bring works of literature to life on stage. I’m thrilled to direct this beautiful adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel about a woman who risks everything for love. Kevin McKeon’s highly theatrical adaptation provides us with gorgeous language that engages the imagination of the audience in a really vivid way, sweeping us alongside this strong female character across aristocratic Tsarist Russia through ballrooms, ice-skating rinks and horse races.”
  • Quotable: “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
  • What the critics said about Anna Karenina‘s world premiere: “McKeon’s adaptation tells the sprawling tale in quick, economical strokes. Chris Coleman’s direction deftly balances scale and intimacy, deploying a cast of 17 without the proceedings ever appearing hectic.” — Marty Hughley, The Oregonian … “McKeon manages to condense Tolstoy’s sprawling masterpiece about a woman whose love rattles the prison of her social situation into a brisk, ensemble-based production that captures the tragedy of the original, adds a slightly anachronistic humor, and—the gargantuan length of the original be damned—does it all with intermission in under three hours. Whew!”— Aaron Scott, Portland Monthly
  • Fun facts: This is the first time in its 40 years the DCPA Theatre Company is presenting a work by (or inspired by) Tolstoy … Upon its initial release, Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared Anna Karenina  “flawless as a work of art” and William Faulkner called the novel “the best ever written.” … Anna Karenina was voted the greatest book ever written in a 2007 Time poll of 125 contemporary authors … The novel was made into a 2012 movie adapted by Tom Stoppard and featuring Keira Knightley and Jude Law.” … The DCPA Theatre Company commissioned and premiered all three three chapters of Kent Haruf’s Plainsoing Trilogy, by Eric Schmiedl. Anna Karenina playwright Kevin McKeon separately adapted Plainsong for the Book It Theatre in 2015. He also performed in the cast.