By Byron Toben
“Without music, Life would be a mistake”…Frederich Nietszche
The TONY award winning show, “33 VARIATIONS” illustrates how
the creation of innovative music can become an all consuming passion that transcends centuries.
Ludwig Van Beethoven`s life and works are a prime example.
His Symphony number 5 provided the BBC allied theme during World War II. His eccentricities inspired Keir Cutler`s Fringe hit “Ludwig van Lunatic”.
Now, both his music and times inspire this emotive production written by Moises Kaufman ( The Laramie Project: 10 years later) . It is powerfully mounted by Brave New Productions (BNP), which although a small semi-pro independent company, has created a major contribution to the local Montreal scene.
Co-directors Donald Rees and Tracy Allan have assembled a fine group of seven actors.
From the early 19th century: John Abbot grad Stephanie McKenna , an ex Dance Animal grad, has morphed from a Gecko into an irascible but credible Beethoven. Sean Curley who last had a non speaking off stage role as an aquarium fish manipulator in BNP`s Mistakes Were Made here is very much on stage as Beethoven`s man servant (and biographer?) Schindler. Concordia grad Bryan Libero portrays Anton Diabelli, a Viennese music publisher and minor composer, whose open invitation to the leading composers of the day to write variations on his own little waltz generated Beethoven`s 3 year obsession to create not one, not two, but 33 variations of it.
Fast Forward to the 21st century where: Emma McQueen, BNP`s artistic director, is superb as the academic musicologist Dr, Katherine Brandt who, despite a crippling disease, is determined to solve the mystery of Ludwig`s obsession. Marie-Noelle Dufour adopts a German accent as Gertie Landenberger, archivist of
Beethoven papers in Bonn, Joy Ross-Jones is convincing as Clara Brandt, Katherine`s somewhat estranged daughter, who is distressed by her ailing mother`s departure to Germany. Nir Guzinski, a BNP regular, brings a light touch as Dr. Brandt`s male nurse, Mike.
Essential to all this is the inspired on stage piano playing of Ian Baird
The atmosphere in the new performance space of Theatre Paradoxe, a former church, is perfect for the play. All in all, a wonderful combination of script, design, acting and direction that will probably be in line for a META recognition.
33 Variations concludes on May 24 at Theatre Paradoxe (5959 Monk).