Interweaving two stories that take place nearly two centuries apart, Moises Kaufman’s “33 Variations” is a magnificent play, and the production that’s currently on the boards at Capital Repertory Theatre takes it to a glorious level.
It’s a play about the need for human connections. It’s a play about the desire to leave something behind when we die. It’s a play about the intricate musical dance of our lives.
Director Gordon Greenberg has outdone even his joyous production of “Jacques Brel Is Alive & Well & Living in Paris” from Capital Rep’s 2003-2004 season.
The two-pronged story revolves around Beethoven’s obsession with writing 33 variations on an “inconsequential” waltz composed by Anton Diabelli, as well as Dr. Katherine Brandt’s equally dogged and determined present-day research to discover why the great composer spent so much time and effort on such a trivial commission.
But those are just the plot devices that Kaufman utilizes to explore the nature of what is truly important in our lives.
The acting is stunning. As Brandt, Tony nominee Barbara Walsh inhabits the character with both zeal and nuance. As Beethoven – a role that requires first-rate dramatic acting as well as considerable skills as a classical pianist – two-time Tony nominee Bob Stillman fills the bill perfectly.
As Brandt’s research assistant Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger, veteran local actress Eileen Schuyler not only holds her own in such heady company, but often steals the scene from the acclaimed Broadway stars. In fact, there’s no weak link in the seven-person cast.
There are numerous stunning moments of theatrical brilliance, including Beethoven’s burst of compositional frenzy (brought to life by set designer Tobin Ost, lighting designer Michael Gilliam and especially projection designer Alex Koch. And the cascading fugue of dialogue that brings the end of Act 1 to a crescendo will leave you breathless.
Capital Repertory Theatre is celebrating its 30th season, and the theater is using the advertising tag-line “inspiring. engaging. entertaining.” “33 Variations” lives up to that promise.
“33 Variations” continues at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany through Sunday, October 3.
Michael Eck’s review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Carol King’s review at The Daily Gazette: “’33 Variations,’ Capital Repertory Theatre’s current production, is not so much a play as it is an experience. Like playwright Moises Kaufman’s other most famous works, ‘Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde’ and ‘The Laramie Project,’ it is a masterwork of ideas and heightened themes. And Cap Rep’s production is more than equal to the genius of the text. Skillfully directed by Gordon Greenberg, it boasts some of the finest acting the Capital Region is likely to see.”