Feb 27

Sins of the Father: DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Presented by Lyric Stage Co of Boston (40 Years)
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

February 14 to March 15, 2014
Boston, MA
Lyric Stage on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

From the program notes: Robert N. Wilson, The Writer as Social Seer

“Willy’s failure is our failure, for we are also involved in the cult of success, and we, too, measure men by occupational attainment rather than by some sympathetic calculus of the whole human being. We are all partners in the American Dream and parties to the conspiracy of silence surrounding the fact that failures must by definition outnumber successes, given our cultural ground rules and or singular interpretations of the words ‘success’ and ‘failure’.”

(Boston) There is so much that The Lyric’s production of Death of a Salesman gets right. This is a fantastic production – the best of theirs I’ve seen all season, which is saying a lot for a theatre that regularly that creates solid art. It is the same cut and dried script that generations have come to love with a few spins that make it new and poignant.   Continue reading

Share with Your Audience
Jan 09

“33 Variations”: Beethoven Mired in Melodrama

Photo credit: Mark S. Howard; snuggles with Beethoven.

Photo credit: Mark S. Howard; snuggles with Beethoven.

By Moises Kaufman
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon Street, 2nd floor
Boston, MA  02116
Lyric Stage Facebook Page

Review  by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) In Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations, only works of genius transcend death. Musicologist Dr. Katherine Brandt (Paula Plum) throws herself into her studies of Ludwig van Beethoven when diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Brandt’s crisis is contrasted with Beethoven (James Andreassi) as he loses his hearing in 1823.

The contemporary setting is ultimately too light when played side by side with history. Katherine fights against her illness tooth and nail as she struggles to complete her research in Germany, but where that illness should be driving the drama, it instead turns 33 Variations into an issue piece when it could have been so much more.

Katherine’s strained relationship with her daughter, Clara (Dakota Shepard), never feels terribly real, which is disappointing. I understand why Katherine demands perfection of her adult child but I don’t understand why those demands still inspire such loyalty in Clara. It’s not that it isn’t heartening to watch her help Katherine through her sickness, but the relationship feels weak.

Even weaker, though, is Clara’s romance with Mike Clark (Kelby T. Akin), her mother’s nurse. It’s cute in a romantic comedy sort of way. Still, a male nurse dating a distressed, emotionally vulnerable woman strains believability. Despite this, their courtship is cute and humorous. Remembering his profession and under what circumstances their affair transpires, though, wrecks the illusion.

33 Variations is most alive when it deals with history and those obsessed with it. Beethoven’s struggle to write thirty-three variations of a mediocre waltz is thrilling. We can see exactly why Katherine is so passionate about him and his life. It also explains why a friendship grows between her and Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger (Maureen Keiller) while they do research in the Beethoven archives. The really interesting story, the one about art and talent transcending time, is there. It’s just buried under melodrama.

Now, the melodrama isn’t all bad, but it’s best when finding the bittersweet humor of Katherine’s difficulties. Otherwise, the story of a genius plagued by the perils of infirmity has been done before and better. Here, despite Paula Plum’s nuanced acting, the story drags.

Perhaps the strongest quality of the play is the way in which this well-mined material is staged. The actors really throw themselves into their roles, deftly pealing away the layers of melancholy to the humor and hope beneath the material. Pianist Catherine Stornetta does the most to breathe life into the show as she plays each variation.

It’s also magical to watch Beethoven share the stage with Katherine. When Katherine talks with Clara and Beethoven yells at his assistant, Anton Schindler (Victor L. Shopov), their conversations in their respective eras weave together. They are separate from each other only by degrees, knitted together by the desire to continue living fully and happily.

For the play, it’s an unfortunate separation that does it no favors. Katherine’s own deterioration is depicted well, but much too weak to carry a story on its own. As it is, 33 Variations tugs heartstrings, but doesn’t transcend its melodramatic trappings. If only the show had been more ambitious, maybe even as ambitious as the art that it depicts, then it would have really shined.

Share with Your Audience