THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

REVIEWS

Rodney Dunn and Dana Harrison in <em>33 Variations</em>&nbsp;at Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas

Review: 33 Variations | Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas | Irving Arts Center


All the Variations

Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas takes on Moisés Kaufman's 33 Variations, and the standout performance comes from pianist Miyoun Jang.



published Wednesday, January 27, 2016

 

Photo: Mike Morgan Photography
Rodney Dunn and Dana Harrison in 33 Variations at Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas

 

 

Irving — Moisés Kaufman’s 2009 play 33 Variations embodies a brilliant premise: two storylines, both showcasing Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, function contrapuntally. One is the tale of Beethoven’s inspiration and process in 1820s Vienna. The other is the story of a contemporary musicologist, dying of ALS, who travels from New York to Bonn to try to unwrap the Variations’ great mystery: why did an unremarkable waltz by hack composer and music publisher Anton Diabelli inspire Beethoven, the greatest composer of his day, to write 33 variations on the theme of the waltz?

For the current production from Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas, the traditional proscenium stage of the Dupree Theater at the Irving Arts Center is divided into three areas by scenic designer Dane Tuttle. One houses the present New York and Bonn, the other 1820s Vienna. The contemporary area uses plain risers to create an almost industrial mood, while the risers as well as the furnishings in “Beethoven’s Vienna” are more ornate, effectively evoking the aesthetics of both eras. In between the two is the Pianist’s area. The Pianist performs excerpts from the Diabelli Variations, bringing life to the music that is the literal and figurative centerpiece of the play.

Photo: Mike Morgan Photography
Rodney Dunn in 33 Variations

Indeed, Miyoun Jang, the Pianist, is the true star of this show. Her playing is clean, precise, and unmannered, with sufficient presence yet never overpowering the actors. Her playing, coupled with the drama of the play’s plot, will no doubt encourage many audience members to discover other renditions of the Diabelli Variations. I particularly recommend Igor Levit’s recent recording, available here.

The actors mostly embody their roles effectively, with a few missteps. Dana Harrison’s Dr. Katherine Brandt, the dying musicologist, is skillful and reasonably nuanced as she accepts her death and makes a discovery about Beethoven’s manuscript at the same time. Rhonda Durant overplays the role as Dr. Brandt’s daughter Clara. Clara is an emotional mess for much of the play, as she tries to balance her own adulthood with the impending end of her mother’s life. Toning it down just a bit might allow audiences to connect more effectively with her character.

Fernando Hernández finds the right balance as Dr. Brandt’s nurse, who becomes Clara’s boyfriend. It’s a critical supporting role, as is that of Dr. Brandt’s German friend, Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger. Nina Wright is believable, and has the best German accent of the three actors who adopt them.

Rodney Dunn’s Beethoven is sometimes a bit difficult to understand, both because of the German accent and because of his quirky vocal inflections, and Michael Speck’s Anton Diabelli is occasionally overplayed. But more importantly, they create interest in a real and rather prosaic event that happened almost 200 years ago: Beethoven and other composers receive a commission to write one variation apiece on a waltz by Diabelli, to be sold as sheet music. Beethoven becomes a bit obsessed, and creates his own set of 33 variations. This takes him years and he misses deadline after deadline—but everyone knows that geniuses can’t be held to deadlines, and art will happen as it happens.

In this play, neither the playwright nor the actors treat their characters’ physical infirmities as gimmicks—while we see Beethoven growing deafer and Dr. Brandt inching closer to death, these are integrated into the plot so that they’re not mere emotional manipulation.

Colored lights used for the backdrop seem to be used randomly, unless I’m missing something. Costumes, by Michael A. Robinson, are terrific for the 19th century characters and for Mike and Dr. Brandt. Clara’s costumes are sometimes distracting, though—why does she wear so many Asian-influenced outfits?

All told, this is an excellent community theater production of a fascinating play. With some minor tweaking it could be outstanding. Thanks For Reading





Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
All the Variations
Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas takes on Moisés Kaufman's 33 Variations, and the standout performance comes from pianist Miyoun Jang.
by J. Robin Coffelt

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre Watertower Theatre Breadcrumbs Bocelli American Airlines center Collin Theatre Center John Corigliano at TCU Constellations Theatre Arlington Islamic Art Dallas Opera The Drama Club Cara Mia Lakecities Ballet Theatre
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
audiocasts
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web



Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:


Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:


TheaterJones Section:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  



Your Name:
Your Email Adress:


please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :
Submit