Saturday, February 25, 2012

POW! (Play Of The Week)

33 VARIATIONS
by Moises Kaufman

It’s about time!! I have been waiting three years for this beautiful play to be published. When I saw it in 2009, I was blown away by the poignant and sensitive portrayal of human nature as expressed in art. How do we communicate? Is there a common language through which we describe and record the minute details of human emotion. All of this is explored in 33 Variations as Dr. Kathleen Brandt attempts to understand why Beethoven became obsessed with a mediocre waltz and composed 33 variations instead of the single composition requested. Why so many variations? Dr. Brandt cannot rest until she has the answer, yet she is fighting a loosing battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and her own relationship with her daughter has been suffering for some time. We see these two artists, Beethoven and Dr. Brandt, grapple with their morality and how this struggle manifests through art.

Kaufman makes note that in addition to the actors there are two more “characters” in the play, Beethoven's music (played live by a pianist) and projections of Beethoven's sketches. All of the music is included in the playscript (which is why it is oversized). After seeing the Broadway production, I wondered how the play would translate on paper. Kaufman is right, the play is incredibly dependent on the music. You definitely don't get the whole experience just reading the play, but then when does one ever? The music is more than an underscore, it speaks as loudly as any other character, always present and informative. I would recommend listening to some of the Variations while reading the play to get a fuller experience. An appreciation or understanding of classical music is not necessary because the play is beautiful enough on it's own. In witnessing the characters frenetically search to connect and achieve personal goals, one becomes aware of the profound simplicity of a single moment. The play begs us to slow down, and open ourselves to the people and fleeting moments that make up our lives.

Lastly, the scene in the second act where Beethoven constructs Variation #32 (while the pianist plays along) was one of the most breath taking moments I have ever experienced in my 15+ years of attending Broadway theatre.

Great scenes for a man and woman in their 20s, two women 40-60, and two men 30-50. Some monologues for a woman 40-60 and possible monologues for a man and a woman in their 20s.

4M, 3W (and 1 pianist)

Reviewed by Abi

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