Thursday, May 14, 2009

33 Variations (The SOB Review)

33 Variations (The SOB Review) – Eugene O'Neill Theatre, New York, New York

*** (out of ****)

Just when you think Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations is amounting to nothing more than another endless variation on a Lifetime movie, complete with one woman’s courageous battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, along comes one of Broadway’s most inspired and marvelous moments of the entire season. It far exceeds the sum of its parts.

Sure, most of the media focus has, quite rightly, been shining on Jane Fonda’s comeback to the Great White Way after two generations away. Fonda delivers a tremendous performance as the frail Dr. Katherine Brandt, an ALS patient, with a dogged determination not to play the victim. Indeed, she's nearly singularly focused in her quest to uncover the secrets behind Ludwig van Beethoven’s motivations when composing his 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli.

But when the chills overcame me from head to toe, they came from witnessing Zach Grenier as Beethoven. There’s a gorgeous, spine-tingling moment when Grenier becomes one with Beethoven, capturing the stunning genius and precision in composing his beautifully enduring work. I was mesmerized by this classic performance for the ages.

Credit Kaufman and Grenier -- in one of the best featured performances of the year -- for bringing Beethoven’s music to life quite literally. For a play that’s fundamentally about staring down death, life never sounded so wonderfully vibrant.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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