Can you imagine 19th-century Moscow transported to contemporary Philadelphia, and Leo Tolstoy’s Russian angst-laden tragedy Anna Karenina transformed into a wacky local comedy? Luckily for Fringe audiences actor/playwright Chris Davis could. The result is his hilarious ANNA K, performed in the first floor of a South Philadelphia row house, with full-on South Philly attitude. Davis covers all the major plot points in his epic-in-an-hour adaptation, employing split-stage conversations, instantaneous leaps in time, and an imaginative play-within-a-play ending that recaps the story and rewrites Tolstoy’s devastating conclusion.
Directed with non-stop energy by Eva Steinmetz, the terrific five-person ensemble parodies the characters’ personalities and dysfunctional relationships with side-splitting humor and clever sight gags. Ama Bollinger is captivating as the beautiful and passionate Anna, and Chris Davis, in aviator sunglasses, is laughably sleazy as her lover Vronsky. Sam Henderson’s Levin, who resides in the country, becomes the indignant butt of a running joke about sleeping with cows. David Sweeny does double duty as Anna’s dispassionate husband Alexei and the womanizing Oblonsky, going back and forth between the contrasting roles as easily as he slips in and out of a silk dressing gown. And Jenna Horton has riotous dialogues with herself as sisters Kitty and Dolly, in midriff-baring work-out attire, perplexed at the suggestion that she make a phone call instead of texting or messaging (“I’ve never called anyone before”) as the younger Kitty, and with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth as the foul-mouthed Dolly. It’s both funny and insightful, in signature Davis style. [1816 Wharton St.] September 12-21, 2014; http://fringearts.com/event/anna-k/.
Read Kathryn Osenlund’s review here.