The creative process, obsession, sickness and death intertwine in the next production from Modesto’s Prospect Theater Project.
Set in both the present and the 18th century, the drama “33 Variations” focuses on a dying musicologist who becomes obsessed with Beethoven’s own obsession with a waltz by a minor composer. The maestro ultimately produced 33 variations on the piece.
Prospect presents the play from Moises Kaufman from Sept. 15 through Oct. 1 at its downtown Modesto theater.
“33 Variations” is a play of parallels – eras, illnesses and obsessions – as musicologist Katherine Brandt navigates her investigation into Beethoven’s Variations while she simultaneously battles ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to a press release from Prospect Theater. Brandt “is in turn informed by Beethoven’s own battle with illness and deafness, moments of the past casting great clarity and understanding onto the future.”
The play opens with Brandt preparing for a trip to the Beethoven archives in Bonn, Germany. Her daughter Clara tries to convince her mother not to make the journey, given her illness. Clara’s troubled relationship with her mother’s academic nature provides another nuance to the story.
Meanwhile, Beethoven hurls himself into the investigation of Diabelli’s waltz. “Beethoven’s narrative of exploration, frustration, and discovery is the source text upon which Brandt’s narrative has been written,” according to the Prospect release. “Holding time up to the light like a piece of parchment paper, we see how the past informs the future, and how new truths can be discovered by exploring moments as epochs unto themselves.”
The Prospect production stars Jenni Abbott as Brandt; Roni Espinoza as Clara; Andrew Kelly Brown as Mike, a nurse who joins the pair on the trip and Karen Olsen as Gertie, a librarian at the Bonn library. Prospect founder Jack Souza plays Beethoven; Michael Hewitt is Diabelli; and Carl Bengston is Beethoven’s assistant.
Souza – the company’s artistic director – also directs the play.
The production “requires much from its creative team,” according to Prospect. “33 Variations, slows down moments in time from two timelines separated by centuries, first placing them side-by-side, and then layering them so they merge.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays Sept. 15-30 plus Sept. 28; 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 1
WHERE: Propect Theater Project, 1214 K St., Modesto