Saturday, February 14, 2009

33 Variations

Photo: Joan Marcus

Toward the end of his life, ill and losing his hearing, Beethoven wrote 33 variations on a seemingly innocuous waltz by music publisher Anton Diabelli, and scholar Dr. Katherine Brandt (Jane Fonda) wants to know why. A woman who finds the past much more rewarding than the present, Dr. Brandt specializes in keeping those who love her at arm’s length. Beethoven too was a difficult person, and their stories are just two of the variations on display in Mois├ęs Kaufman’s 33 Variations.

Like Tom Stoppard’s wonderful Arcadia, 33 Variations takes place simultaneously in the past and the present. In contrast to Arcadia, however, the characters and their desires just aren’t that compelling. In all fairness, however, I saw an early preview, and it is possible that the play will be focused and trimmed—and certainly the performances will grown and deepen. How involving 33 Variations will turn out to be, time will tell.

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