West Seattle's ArtsWest presents the award-winning "33 Variations," based on a true story about Beethoven's preoccupation with a waltz by lesser composer, Anton Diabelli. Pictured top, left, West Seattle actor Matthew Gilbert portrays Beethoven. Top right, Daniel Stoltenberg as Anton Schindler, Beethoven's assistant & biographer. Pictured bottom, left, Allison Standley &, right, Jody McCoy, as Clara & Dr. Katherine Brandt. Dr. Brandt travels to Bonn to investigate the variations while dying of ALS.
Beethoven obsesses over his "33 Variations", ArtsWest's current production
By Moises Kauffman
Directed by Christopher Zinovitch
(We previously misidentified Daniel Stoltenberg as another actor and regret our mistake. Thank you.)
West Seattle's ArtsWest presents the award-winning play, "33 Variations," based on a true story. Fueled by his genius which he finds increasingly cumbersome to manage, Beethoven becomes preoccupied with his task to compose a variation (or two) on a waltz by another, lesser composer, Anton Diabelli, a successful musical publisher who requests variations to his waltz by the great classical composers.
Beethoven became obsessed and, beginning around 1819, composed 33 variations over perhaps three years, while profound deafness and other health crises struck, and, too, while the publisher was losing his patience, and money, and needed to publish. Diabelli was successfully strung along, thanks to the promised reward of numerous Beethoven works, and to his ego since the master's work was rooted in his own.
This is a tale of two centuries, the early 19th, an present-day, as common themes of passion play out. Present-day character, Dr. Katherine Brandt, hasn't long to live, and journeys to Bonn on a quest to understand Beethoven's obsession with this waltz by Diabelli, presumed by experts to be mediocre. Characters from both centuries appear on stage simultaneously, allowing overlapping themes to crystalize.
"They are considered an incredible set of variations now," pianist Katie Koch told the West Seattle Herald, referring to the 33 pieces. She performed portions of them, and the Diabelli waltz live during the play. "When you look at the variations on the surface, they don't look that complicated. Then you start getting into them and they really are incredibly complicated. He was so ahead of his time that there is just so much you have to try to read into what he was thinking and doing."
Said West Seattle's Matthew Gilbert who portrayed Beethoven, "I learned so much about his character, about the history of his life. Then I just threw it out the window and brought myself to the character. I think what is most important is that this is not so much a historical play as it is an emotional play. And when you bring both the historic and the emotion you get this play, and it is beautiful."
A humorous Woody Allen-esque scene (and there are many humorous lines throughout) takes place in the balcony during a present-day classical concert. Dr. Brandt's attractive, angsty daughter, Clara, and Brandt's eager-for-love nurse, Mike, are on their first, awkward date. Should he hold her hand? Does he even like classical music? You hear the internal dialogue by each character while they maintain artificial smiles.
"We've all been there," Allison Standley, portraying Clara, told the West Seattle Herald, referring to awkward first dates. "I think we can all relate. That's the deal with all these characters in the show. They are so human, and realized, and hopefully we've done our job and brought them to life. They experience love, passion, heartache, health, mortality, things we deal with era after era, decade after decade. And what is more passionate than love and music? Those together are at the top of the list for me."
"Allison is such a wonderful woman and I can't hug her except off stage because we don't have that kind of relationship in the play," added Jody McCoy who stars as Clara's mother. They finally reconcile, but not before Dr. Brandt begins slipping away.
"It is not until the very end that we have the closeness and it is so sad when it finally happens," said McCoy. "At least we get to go home and wash it off and be us again."
Nominated for 5 Tony Awards©. “Not to be missed” (New York Magazine). Appropriate for ages 16+.
Katie Koch, pianist, Jody Mc Coy (Dr. Katherine Brandt), Allison Standley (Clara Brandt), Matthew Gilbert (Ludwig Von Beethoven), Daniel Stoltenberg (Anton Schindler), James Lyle (Anton Diabelli), Mark Tyler Miller (Mike Clark), Ruth Mc Ree (Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger).
33 Variations runs from May 1 - 25, 2013 at ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery in West Seattle.
Read more about 33 VARIATIONS to Make Northwest Premiere at ArtsWest, 5/1-25 by seattle.broadwayworld.com
CLICK HERE to read more, & to purchase tickets.
Subscriptions to the full five-play season go on sale on April 4th at $159 - $200 for general audiences, $140 for seniors – at ArtsWest Box Office, (206) 938-0339.
About ArtsWest: ArtsWest produces artistic events so fiercely compelling that they require conversation, improve the imagination, and promote cultural vibrancy as a core value for the communities of Seattle. Utilizing a 149-seat, 3/4 thrust theater and visual art gallery, ArtsWest has presented over 550 different performing arts productions and gallery exhibitions to over 225,000 visitors since 1999.