Thursday, February 19, 2009

33 Variations

I attended Tuesday night's performance of 33 VARIATIONS, the new Moises Kaufman play starring two-time Oscar Award winning actress, JANE FONDA. The play is now in previews at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre located at 230 West 49th Street. The play was wonderful and the cast was fantastic. It was a delight to see Jane Fonda perform, even though it was obvious that she forgot some lines during the first act. Even Ms. Fonda's dog, Tulea participated in the curtain call. Tulea apparently escaped from the dog sitter and came out during curtain call. 33 Variations has Kaufman taking an audience through what he calls "a series of variations on a moment in a life." It is based on Ludwig van Beethoven obsessively composing his "Diabelli Variations," which are alternative versions, some playful, others serious, of an undistinguished waltz. Kaufman thus echoes the music titan's effort as he weaves together an illuminating examination of the process of composing with emotionally resonant stories. In 1819, music publisher Anton Diabelli wrote a waltz, and invited composers to create a variation on it. Although he initially dismissed the piece as trivial, Beethoven worked on it for years, writing 33 variations, formally known as "33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli." Fonda plays a musicologist who goes to Bonn, Germany to examine why the famed composer Ludwig von Beethoven created the variations. At the same time, she is suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The play cuts back and forth between Beethoven, who has gone deaf, writing 33 variations on a piece, and Fonda’s Katherine trying to hold on to her life. I found the whole premise of the play inspiring and moving. It was very entertaining too, especially the scenes between Samantha Mathis and Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks' son). I am always fascinated by the artistry of set designers including Derek McLane in this production. He creatively used stacks of immense bookshelves holding manuscripts or sketchbooks, accompanied by moveable panels that are made of Beethoven's compositions. Even the manual movement of the panels was beautifully "choreographed." The projection design prominently features Beethoven's sketches on stage.

Ms. Fonda blogs about her theater experience among other things at this address:

Here are some of the New York Times' Readers Reviews:
Wow!, February 18, 2009
Reviewer: donnadonna53
A wonderfully written play about the complexity of relationships. The staging was very inventive and made the transitions between centuries flow with ease. The performances were truly inspiring. This is a play that will stay with you long after you leave the theater. A must see!

Fascinating story, February 16, 2009
Reviewer: bsimon
It's a compelling drama with an interesting story line. All the characters are well-drawn and the acting is excellent. The set is spectacular; it's both beautiful and inventive.

What a Delight!, February 15, 2009
Reviewer: nativechelsea
Moises Kaufman's new play is beautifully staged, with top-notch performances from the entire cast. I saw this in the first week of previews, so no doubt they are still tweaking many elements. The story is so interesting, and by the end, I was indeed quite moved. Music lovers in particular will enjoy. Great theatre is back on Broadway!!! Highly recommended -- go see this play! You don't want to miss this one!

Exceeded Expectations, February 15, 2009
Reviewer: collinstw3
We saw the show on Thursday 12 February and really enjoyed it. Still a little rough around the edges, but lots of promise and Jane Fonda was excellent. Go see this show!

Star turn, February 15, 2009
Reviewer: frankie1234
It's great to see a star like Jane Fonda on Broadway. Kaufman's play reminds me of a good Peter Shaffer play. Not too much history, but enough to be interesting. I think it needs a little editing, but I would recommend to almost anyone.

emperor's new clothes, February 14, 2009
Reviewer: michaelhalpern
great to see jane fonda looking so good, but this is a nothing of a play. pretentious and empty, its dramaturgy is overly-simplistic, the staging is flat, and the characters are one-dimensional. rent KLUTE and save your money.

Well worth watching, February 12, 2009
Reviewer: wgs2102
While I saw this show in early previews (it was a little rough around the edges), I could tell it would become fantastic once it opened. The design aspects worked well to aid the acting; Jane Fonda lived up to her name, and the supporting cast helped the show immeasurably. Moises Kaufman was everything we'd expect and more. Go see this show!

well done!, February 12, 2009
Reviewer: rubywhitehouse
I thoroughly enjoyed this play. The characters were quite compelling, and the story was very unique. The blurred time lines and story lines flowed very well. The stage design was inspired, so beautiful. I thought the play had a great synergy to it, the cast worked very well together. Jane Fonda was amazing, she brought a wisdom and maturity to the role- with incredible style. I was very moved by the performances and the music. I highly highly recommend this play!

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