Nan is an actor.

Espie is a queer mixed-race director and producer.

 

NAN

Shall we start with pockets? I know a couple of people in the cast, and I saw Machinal last season, but that’s pretty much the limit of my connection with EgoPo

ESPIE

Yeah, I knew a few folks in the cast as well, but I hadn’t seen any of Brenna Geffers’ work before.  I was really excited going in as I’ve only heard great things.

 

NAN

For sure. She has a great rep as a deviser. I also haven’t read Anna Karenina or seen any other adaptation before this one

ESPIE

Me too, my knowledge of Anna Karenina going in was that it’s long and Russian, and I was really nervous about being about to follow the story

 

NAN

For sure! I was also really interested in how the adaptation itself would go, especially in terms of going from classic novel to stage? It seems like a big shift and I was curious as to how expressionistic it would be.

ESPIE

Same on my end.  I thought the set design did a really incredible job of bringing us into a new world.  I really enjoyed being about to walk through the tapestries – it felt very welcoming.

 

NAN

Agreed! I loved that they began easing you in as you even climb the stairs to the space, starting to introduce the draped textiles and light. I was really impressed with how thoroughly the space was transformed. It was really unrecognizable as the Latvian society

ESPIE

Yes!  I had seen The Seagull there s few months ago and I never once thought about that production’s set. I thought the rugs and tent vibes also made it feel like you were about to be told a story which was really pleasing!

 

NAN

It was really appealing and built a great atmosphere. On the other hand though, by the end of the show, I didn’t feel that they really used the set all that much. It felt like the action was not very integrated with the set which was not ideal. But it was beautiful. I thought the lights were also great in their simplicity, though there were a couple instances in which I lost peoples’ faces in dappled light?

ESPIE

There were definitely a few moments during the movements that involved the full ensemble where I weren’t sure if the lights were trying to highlight the ensemble or the character(s) whom the event was directly affecting. I agree with the use of the set too.  I was confused by the stagehands putting out the extra tapestry to start Act 2.  I understood that it signified a picnic blanket outside, but there was so much in the space already.

.

NAN

Mostly I just found myself wondering if they’d had time to play on the set much before opening. The costumes were also a really solid effort for what I expect they were working with in terms of budget

ESPIE

In general, I really enjoy all of Natlia de la Torre’s work as a costume designer.

 

NAN

It absolutely contributed to the visual spectacle of the show. Really lovely.

ESPIE

Overall, I really enjoyed the full design.  It was so fun and warm and lighthearted and totally not what I was expected going into a dark Russian story.

 

NAN

For sure. It’s also very difficult to costume that kind of thing when time has to pass, people have to change characters with only a few pieces, etc. It was very well done. 

ESPIE

Agreed.  What did you think about the ensemble work?

NAN

I enjoyed it. Having seen Machinal, I thought it might be more movement-y than it was, and I was interested to see that it didn’t give me a strong “devised” feel? You?

ESPIE

I thought the ensemble work was really strong though I’m not sure how much it served telling a story with only a few main characters.  I really struggled to connect with Anna (Colleen Corcoran). There were so many moving parts at all times, and it make it hard to focus.  I never believed that she was as charismatic as everyone implied

NAN

Agreed. I think in attempting to maintain some of the beautiful original prose they lost something in terms of character development because it ends up adding distance to characters when you mostly hear about them instead of seeing them in action.

ESPIE

Yup.  I really appreciated the narration for the first 20 minutes or so as I really needed that for set up, but after a while I started feeling like I was being spoonfed the story.  I tend to react pretty negatively when I feel like I’m being condescended to so I left the show feeling a bit irked.

NAN

Yeah. I think they could have done away with it as they went on. Which they sort of tried to do as they gave some characters extended monologue sequences later in the show. But I think they could have certainly gone farther with that sooner and just shown and not told.

ESPIE

I also think that having so much narration really detracted from being able to fully connect with their characters.  Lee Minora in particular comes to mind.  I think the work she did particularly as Vronsky’s brother was really strong but because I saw her as one of the main purveyors of narration that I was increasingly checking out of, it was hard for me to snap my focus towards her characters.  

NAN

I was just confused as to why a designated “narrator” character was needed when the rest of the cast was also doing a lot of narration. I guess the intention was to make sure the storyline stayed consistent and that we didn’t get lost in the different story arcs/character changing/potential confusion there, but I think their storytelling was quite clear and I would have liked to see them break the format they set up at some point?

ESPIE

The format was broken at the very end but I felt like that was way too late.

NAN

Yeah. I would have really loved for that to happen or start happening sooner in the show.

ESPIE

Yeah, I was really excited to see Colleen break character and was then really let down when it just ended.  It cheapened the experience for me.

NAN

Yes! I was really excited about the fact that this piece occurred at the intersection between feminism and love of classics, but I would have loved to have seen them go deeper into that. That final breaking off was a great choice but it was disappointing that it was so short lived. It ended up feeling a bit like an afterthought. Especially when Colleen’s entire performance seemed predicated on the boundary between maintaining her reservation and unleashing her real feelings. The moments when she did really lose her shit and shout were really fantastic, especially when she spends so much of the show being very placid and reserved, and then coming off as being even more distant because of the buffer of the many layers of narration between us and her.

ESPIE

I agree that the moments that she broke down were really clear.  I also thought that Amanda Schoonover’s work did a great job of highlighting both outright and internalized misogyny.  I wish that I had felt the same about Kitty (Maria Konstantinidis), but her storyline felt less complex.

NAN

Yes, I think her storyline did get a bit muddy. I also wasn’t quite sure what the intention was in keeping that arc in the play?

ESPIE

I think it’s interesting that she was the only woman designated as physically beautiful in the show, but I wish that was mined more.

NAN: Agreed!! Yes. I really enjoyed Amanda Schoonover’s monologue sequence, I thought she did fantastic work.

ESPIE

I think Brenna did a great job of highlighting misogyny as perpetuated by the male characters and how this wreaks havoc on everyone’s lives, but it didn’t really go into how misogyny is not solely male-perpetrated.  One of my favorite moments in the play was when Amanda Schoonover’s character called out Colleen Corcoran (Anna) for encouraging her to stay with her cheating husband a few years prior to Colleen’s refusal to go back to her own husband. I wanted to see more of that.

NAN

Yes! Completely agreed

ESPIE:

On a slightly unrelated note, I loved the cross-gender casting.  I thought it established that this interpretation of Anna was going to live in a place that wasn’t going to align with the original intentions of the text.

NAN

YES. And I loved that when actors played cross-gender roles there was no preoccupation with that, and it was simply conveyed with a simple costume piece or two and didn’t try to get into re-gendering the actors. There were definitely a lot of nice choices that showed that they were not going for a traditional telling of the story. I liked that Vronsky was clearly a bigheaded, foppish sort of character from the start. and I also liked the choice to include male nudity at the end of act one. That was a great tableau, with Anna poised over him in such a possessive way. I appreciated the attempt to prioritize the female gaze

ESPIE

That was such a great ending.  In a way, the ending of Act 1 broke from with the introduction of the nudity in such an aggressive way – it got real sexy real fast!  And, similarly to the end of the show, it was really exciting!  I wish they had more of those moments or if Act Two somehow devolved into the debauchery that the last moment of Act 1 seemed to suggest for me.

NAN

Absolutely. I feel in a way like it was their commitment to the original text that held them back from going as far as I wanted them to go, in several cases. If their intention was to tell the story as well and thoroughly as possible, they certainly did that, but I found myself wanting them to break some of those walls down more than they did.

ESPIE

Yes.  I felt like the actors who didn’t have to deal as much narration really shone. Shamus McCarty in particular did a great job with driving the pace and using humor to highlight how fucked up many of the situations in the play were.

NAN

Yes!

ESPIE

Overall, I think this production succeeded in showing Anna in a completely original light, but I just wish it had gone a bit further in its content.

NAN

Agreed.

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