I approached "Anna Karenina nervously, because I have not read Leo Tolstoy's gigantic tome. But, I needn't have worried, Portland Center Stage's production was very accessible, with an informative playbill and the unusual and clever structure of a "Book-It" play, (local examples include "Owen Meaney's Christmas Pageant," and "Snow Falling on Cedars"), I did fine.
The first thing you''ll notice about "Anna Karenina" is just how well it fills the stage. Everything is big, there are ice-skating scenes and grand ballroom dances, with elaborate and striking costumes. And the set! Oh, the set! Not only was it fittingly large, to match the production's epic scope, but it also had an abundance of little touches that were so cool, like twinkling lights in the houses in twilight.
There is also a smattering of humor which I enjoyed for its unexpectedness, given the sometimes crushing sadness of the story.
"Anna Karenina" is among Portland Center Stage's most ambitious productions, the climatic scene at the end was so impressive and effective that I had to resist the urge to cover my face due to the oncoming train.
On a brief personal note, I went with my grandmother who loved the show, and I had the privilege of honoring a broken promise to see a production of "Anna Karenina" made by my grandfather sixty-four years ago. During intermission, we talked about how much she identified with the female-oppression themes. This really enhanced the experience for me, and so I suggest you too attend with an elderly loved-one, you might be surprised how much you learn ....