ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
None But the Lonely Heart: The Strange Story of Tchaikovsky and Madame von Meck
By Elyse Sommer
But forget about snippet-length music. if you're a music lover, and especially fond of Tchaikovsky's "Piano Trio in A Minor," rejoice. You're going to hear it all, plus several other of the Maestro's works, performed by live musicians, one of whom is the playwright. And that's not all. There are also several appearances by a tenor and dancer.
As it turns out, Epstein and Bock while the central characters in the story that's part of the 6-year old Ensemble For the Romantic Century founded by the multi-talented Ms. Wolf, their roles are secondary to the music. Thus instead of a play with some music, we have a story which, though fascinating, has the actors spending a lot of their stage time listening to the music.
You might think of this merger of concert and story as a chamber-ama. Whatever you call it, Ms. Wolf' has found a fine partner in Shakespeare & Company. Though neither Epstein or Bock (especially Epstein) is a wallflower actor, they don't seem to mind spending so much time sitting and listening. In fact, according to the program notes, they are members of the Ensemble and have worked with them on similar concert-dramas previously.
As you enter the Elaine Bernstein Theater, it's instantly clear that this is more than a play with music, but a concert with time out for a backstory about the composer and his strange relationship with von Meck. A grand piano and two music stands dominate the playing area, with tables and chairs at either side for the actors. This positioning of actors is not uncommon in other epistolary plays I've seen and it works very well here.
With a strong assist from set and costume designer Vanessa James and lighting designer Beverly Emmons, Director Donald T. Sanders has created a handsome and easily navigable space for all the performers. Velvet voiced tenor Edwin Vega appears from the elegant upstage drapes as Tchaikovsky's lover. Ballet dancer Daniel Mantei greatly enhances the Intermezzo from The Nutcracker.
The musicians are all superb and the intimacy of the venue is ideal for this type of music. I do have a few quibbles and precautions. Beautiful as the music is, it is allowed to dominate a bit too much. I feel Ms. Wolf and the director could have made room for a few more dramatic interchanges, like the amusing almost-meeting of Tchaikovsky and von Meck at the top of the second act. Also this is open seating so arrive early if you want to sit in the center section which has better visibility.
Finally, the title of the story comes from a Tchaikovsky piece performed in the first act — which may but probably had nothing to do with the beloved old movie starring Cary Grant and Ethel Barrymore.
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free
Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show