Review: Plan-B and NOVA team up on a powerful production of ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’

Rick Pollock  |  Courtesy   Actor Robert Scott Smith with violinist Kathryn Eberle and pianist Jason Hardink perform in Utah playwright Eric Samuelson’s Rick Pollock | Courtesy Actor Robert Scott Smith with violinist Kathryn Eberle and pianist Jason Hardink perform in Utah playwright Eric Samuelson’s "The Kreutzer Sonata."
Review • “The Kreutzer Sonata” integrates music with a chilling tale of murder.

Forget about music’s supposed charms to soothe the savage breast. In Eric Samuelsen’s new one-act play, “The Kreutzer Sonata,” music has power to drive a man to murder.

Plan-B Theatre Company and the NOVA Chamber Music Series opened their seasons together Sunday night with a gripping performance of Samuelsen’s play, based on Leo Tolstoy’s novella of the same name. Over the course of an hour, the protagonist explains how hearing his wife play Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 (nicknamed the “Kreutzer” Sonata) with a male acquaintance drove him to murder her.

Samuelsen’s taut script, which boils Tolstoy’s novella to its essentials, seamlessly integrates the art forms of music and theater. Violinist Kathryn Eberle and pianist Jason Hardink never interact with actor Robert Scott Smith or even acknowledge his presence — for that matter, they make no more eye contact with each other than is absolutely necessary — yet their performance carries breathtaking dramatic force. Likewise, there is terrifying music in Smith’s spoken monologue, a bitter indictment of music and marriage that crescendoes until it becomes operatic in its fury.

“Listen as I listen,” the murderer challenges his audience. As we do, we begin to hear defiance in Eberle’s playing, though her face remains impassive.

Jerry Rapier’s direction, Randy Rasmussen’s minimalist set and Jesse Portillo’s lighting design match the excellence of the three performers.

Note: Eberle and Hardink play most of the sonata in the course of the evening, but for those who wish to hear their fine performance in full, Plan-B and NOVA are selling a recording.

Fiddling around

P Plan-B Theatre Company and the NOVA Chamber Music Series present “The Kreutzer Sonata.”

When • Reviewed Sunday; performances continue Mondays and Sundays at 7 p.m. through Nov. 9

Where • Studio Theater at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City

Running time • Just under an hour; no intermission

Tickets • $20; planbtheatre.org