Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize winning play “Anna Christie” is a tale that begins when Anna (Zoe Perry) returns to New York to live with her alcoholic sailor father Chris Christopherson (Jeff Perry) after he left her to be raised in Minnesota with relatives as a child. Anna returns a woman who has had a difficult life in a brothel in Minnesota, and goes back to New York hoping to turn her life around. As she reunites with her father Chris, she realizes nothing has changed; he is still an alcoholic, still a sailor, and still going to the same bar. She discovers her father has a girlfriend, Marthy (Mary Mara), also an alcoholic who brings Anna and Chris back together. As Anna and Chris go through the motions of their father/daughter reunion, Anna meets an Irishman Mat Burke (Kevin McKidd). Anna and Mat's whirlwind relationship deepens so Anna struggles to tell Chris and Mat about her past as she starts to reconsider why she is there in the first place.
Jeff Perry ("Chris Christopherson")
Jeff Perry is mesmerizing as he portrays the role of Chris who continues his solitary life as a sailor that has never fully moved on from Anna's mother. Chris's fear that Anna will be abandoned by Mat, as he will be away at sea, begins to consume him, and cause tensions with Mat. This provides us with a great level of rapport between Jeff Perry and Kevin McKidd onstage. There are a couple of highly emotional scenes where Chris, Anna and Mat are altogether and Kevin, Jeff and Zoe just compliment each other's performances so well.
Zoe Perry ("Anna Christie")
Zoe Perry is luminous in her gritty performance as Anna, a role previously played in film by Greta Garbo and on Broadway by Natasha Richardson. Her scenes with Jeff Perry (Chris) seem to be effortless. The scenes Zoe has with Kevin McKidd capture the physical attraction and humanity of both their characters that just gets better as the play goes on. Zoe's performance breathes new life into Anna and she makes the role her own. It’s refreshing to see such a unique interpretation of Anna.
Kevin McKidd ("Mat Burke")
There are not enough words to describe the chemistry that exists between this entire cast especially with Zoe and Kevin (Mat). They balance and energize each others performance very well. Kevin is electric as he enters the stage as Mat Burke. Mat is a passionate, shipwrecked sailor who is the moral compass in the play. Mat believes in Anna, his religion, and puts all his hopes and dreams on their future. The initial meeting between Zoe and Mat is one that is (in more ways than one) full of ups and downs. Their encounter is a physically demanding scene that must have been grueling to choreograph especially on such a small stage. Kevin plays the passionate and idealistic Mat brilliantly. Not being able to give away spoilers, I will say that there were scenes Kevin was performing in that really took my breath away. It is a very physical and vocally demanding role that Kevin performs beautifully. If you are going to the play just to see Kevin, you will be enthralled by his performance. It was also exciting to see him acting with Jeff Perry as they have both been on Grey's Anatomy but have never been in scenes together.
The stage for “Anna Christie” is designed so minimal and in such a way that you really do feel you're outside a boat. The way the play is directed is pretty unique. It’s hard to explain but there are a few scenes that are pulled off so they play around with the axis of action. It also depends where you are sitting in the audience. For example, I sat in the upper right corner in the matinee, and then in the evening show I moved to a seat next to the theatre entrance. I experienced the second half of the play with an entirely different view (and got splashed on!). Without giving much away, there is an intense scene where Anna, Chris and Mat are sitting down but not next to each other. When I was sitting in the corner seat it just looked like they were sitting in a row across the stage, but when I had moved to a different seat, I could see that the scene was composed so they were actually sitting diagonally behind Anna. Scenes like that display how much hard work has gone into this production.
Afterwards I met the cast and chatted with Kevin, Zoe, Jeff and Mary who were all very kind and gracious. Thank you to Kevin McKidd, Zoe Perry, Jeff Perry and Mary Mara, it was a true pleasure to watch you perform. If you have the chance to see this wonderful production, definitely do it and help support L. A. theatre!
Odyssey Theatre | 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. | Los Angeles, California | 310-477-2055
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