The theatrical dream team of Leo Tolstoy, Ludwig van Beethoven and Ted Dykstra makes The Kreutzer Sonata, now playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace as part of the 2010 SummerWorks Festival a gripping and explosive piece of theatre.
Adapted for the stage by Dykstra from the Tolstoy novella of the same name, The Kreutzer Sonata centers on a deeply disturbed, emotionally ravaged man named Pozdnyshev who seeks to justify to the audience and to convince himself of the events that validate him stabbing his wife with a dagger in a cold blooded jealous rage.
This story is an even more idiosyncratic exploration of jealousy and the rage that propels the wild imagination which propels the anguish of a man who suspects he is being cuckolded than Anna Karenina. Tolstoy has his protagonist grasping for blame in everything from his wife’s use of contraception, which, he argues, divorces the act of sex from being employed within the home for the purpose of conceiving children and gives it life beyond the family, to music, which he charges with having the witching power to manipulate those creating it or listening to it to become swept up with foreign emotions and passions that are not emerging organically from their own selves.
Of course, Pozdnyshev’s horrific actions cannot be absolved simply because he is passionate in his sentiment that watching someone he loved so dearly, and arguably, his entire life as he knew it, threatening to slip away into deceit and betrayal was so cruel that he was, somehow, also a victim in this tragedy. Yet, I think that Tolstoy has also eloquently and poetically captured one of humanity’s darkest and most dangerous emotions and that if most of us were being perfectly honest with ourselves, we would admit to, if not overtly sympathizing, certainly identifying to some degree, with the jealous torment of the bitter, broken hearted Pozdnyshev. He speaks of wanting to slow down his heart, which he can feel “squeezing itself in his chest,” of attempting to be flippant so his wife and her gentleman caller will not suspect his vulnerable insecurity, he watches their every interaction with such detail that he notices that their shoulders touch twice, and he cannot control his imagination, and his own thoughts are even more torturing to him than the reality of his situation. Like in a Greek tragedy, jealousy is the hamartia that will propel our tragic hero, like Othello, toward destroying his own life.
Ted Dykstra is absolutely terrifying in this role. He holds the audience completely captive, hanging on his every line and feeling the pulsing of his heart, the spinning of his mind and the raging of his soul as though it were pounding against the outside of the theatre. As others have noted in their reviews, Dykstra is also nearly unrecognizable as this character, transformed into a much older, more haggard man with wild eyes and with a bit of a menacing Jack Nicholson essence about him that is palpably disturbing. Dykstra pushes this character into the deepest dark crevices of resentfulness and envy and yet still manages to show how deeply vulnerable he is, despite the callousness of his actions.
I’m sure this production would have been enhanced to magic synchronicity if the music had been played by live musicians, but even so, the hour hurdled by in a whirlwind of heart rendering emotion and a truly formidable and awing performance by Ted Dykstra that left me wishing that I could rewind the experience and play it all again.
The Kreutzer Sonata plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue) at the following times:
August 13th 10:30 PM
August 15th 8:00 PM