Stage Left's theatrically powerful The Kreutzer tells a horrible story drawn from Tolstoy's 1888 novella The Kreutzer Sonata, but tells it so beautifully and compellingly that you can't bear to look away from the unfolding events.
A debauched young man decides that marrying a pure and beautiful young woman will restore him to fidelity. He finds her, they fall in love and marry. Desire mutates to carnal lust, hatred. Passion warps their relationship into cyles of violence. Children arrive, and order is restored. After the children have grown, the woman becomes alluring once more, takes a lover. The husband's jealousy causes him to stab her to death. But adjudged a crime of passion, he is free to continue with his life.
The degradation of the marital relationship is camouflaged by aesthetics. The story is very beautifully presented in a drawing room (designed by Rob Larsen and Kate Logan) dominated by a grand piano. The back wall holds additional walk-in spaces - a boudoir, a railway carriage - and becomes a surface for shadowy silhouettes, overlay illusions, and other projected footage. The cast wear formal drawing room attire.
There's a continuous first person narrative from the Husband (Vadim Ledogorov), who not only narrates and interacts but also obsessively wields a video camera.
There's flirtation, provocative posing, passionate grappling and dreamy art nouveau dancing from the Wife (Nina Baeyertz). And right from the start there's live classical music - Janacek 's 1923 string quartet The Kreutzer Sonata, played with aplomb by the New Zealand String Quartet despite seldom being seated in one place for more than a few minutes. And climactically, Beethoven's 1803 Kreutzer Sonata, exultantly performed by Catherine McKay and Douglas Bielman.
By theatrical standards, this production is highly conventional, but it also transcends many of the conventions though its transdisciplinary approach. Director Sara Brodie achieves a marvellous integration of music, theatre, dance, and design.
What: The Kreutzer.
Where and when: Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, The Edge, runs until Monday 9 March at 6pm