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.