It would be fun to call ANNA K an irreverent romp through Tolstoy’s 1870s novel, Anna Karenina, but in fact playwright Chris Davis reverences the material in his own way. For all its comedy, and there’s plenty in his South Philly-style version, the play scans the storyline and retains underlying issues. You can peg the characters right away if you know the novel, but my companion, who didn’t know the story at all, was bowled over. This play can stand on its own.
The cast delivers. Glamorous and contemporary Anna (Ama Bollinger) is, of course, allergic to gluten. Chris Davis in shades is the comically ultrasmooth Vronsky, “The Vronskinator.” The small cast requires some doubling: To change characters Jenna Horton smokes or doesn’t, and drops her sweater from shoulders to arms. It gets interesting when one of her characters converses with the other. The donning or taking off of a robe signals David Sweeny’s role shifts. And it’s not in every show that someone (Sam Henderson) goes upstairs in a rowhouse to deliver a calf. Tolstoy’s immortal storyline lives on, but for this truly humorous show a key part of the novel’s ending is blurred and enigmatic. Davis hints that even comedy doesn’t alter consequences or stop trains. The audience, tucked right in there with the action, gets high-fived and laughs a lot. I won’t give away the priceless dialogue. You simply have to be there. [1816 Wharton St.] Sept. 12-21, 2014. http://fringearts.com/event/anna-k/.
Read Deb Miller’s review here.