The unique play 33 Variations continues at Church Hill Theatre through September 22. Moises Kaufman’s compelling contemporary play brings one of Beethoven’s finest piano works to life in a production that reviewer Peter Heck calls “a masterpiece.” With Stephanie King LaMotte playing the grand piano, Director Michael Whitehill shifts fluidly between the 19th and 21st centuries, exploring musical, medical and intellectual enigmas.
In 33 Variations, Kathy Jones gives a “virtuoso performance” as musicologist Katherine Brandt, coping with an advancing case of ALS, whilst pursuing her research on the background of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Her story alternates and intersects on the stage with Beethoven’s own reaction to his growing deafness and his fascination with a brief work by a minor musician. Eddie Vance takes on the role of Beethoven and he “plays up the character’s comic side…to humanize the character.”
The cast also includes Kendall Irene Davis who “finds a nice balance” as Brandt’s daughter as she struggles to come to terms with her mother’s illness. Debra Ebersole gives a “beautiful and nuanced performance” as a librarian in charge of the Beethoven archives. Robbie Spray does a “nice job” rounding out the 21st century characters as Mike Clark, a nurse who treats Brandt while juggling a relationship with Clara. Will Robinson and Ken Gresh play two 19th century men in Beethoven’s world. Robinson takes on the role of Anton Schindler, friend of Beethoven, giving “his character a delightfully pompous bearing…a solid job” and Gresh “plays up the clear contrast with…Beethoven” as Diabelli, the composer and publisher urging the completion of the variations.
Pianist Stephanie King LaMotte, on stage throughout the performances, plays the variations “with authority and vivid expression.” In his review, Peter Heck notes that, “While she has no dialogue, her performance is critical in setting the emotional landscape in which the rest of the play takes place.”
With actors and music at such a high caliber, heed the words of Heck’s review, “Do yourself a favor and go see it. And be sure to tell your friends about it.”
Assisting in the production are Producer Sylvia Maloney, Stage Manager Ronald Lee “Speedy” Christopher, Jr., Dramaturge Shelagh Grasso, and Choreographer Cavin Moore. Doug Kaufmann is in charge of lighting and sound; Steve Atkinson is the photographer. The play is produced under arrangements with Dramaatists Play service, Inc.
33 Variations runs weekends through September 22, with performances at 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays. Reservations are strongly advised and can be made by calling the box office at 410-556-6003 or online at www.churchhilltheatre.org