Variations on a Death Waltz
on an obsessional quality in the twilight of his life. We see the composer himself on one part of the stage; on another, a contemporary musicologist races to complete her study of the Variations before her own life ends.
Moises Kaufman (The Laramie Project) recapped the variations of the title in the play's thirty-three short scenes. Or so I'm told--most flow into each other, creating what feels like a conventional two-act play. In this Purple Rose production, rhythm and harmony undergird every moment, particularly pleasing in a play that is literally about rhythm and harmony.
Katherine Brandt (Michelle Mountain), the musicologist, is a fictional creation, but she's investigating an actual conundrum: why did Beethoven write thirty-three variations on a simple, popular waltz of the era? Like any good story about an intellectual quest, the real heavy lifting is explaining not so much the answer as why anyone would ask the question in the first place. I came home enlightened.