The 80 ducats (about $10,000) Beethoven would earn was important, especially to Anton Schindler, his associate and secretary, a constant companion who also served as his business manager. Joshua Taylor, one of the founding members of 5 & Dime, gives a keen performance, with assured hauteur and vocal dynamism.
That is the somewhat factual portion of the play. We say ‘somewhat’ factual as the many biographies of Beethoven contain inconsistencies.
Mr. Kaufman’s leading lady is a fictional character: Dr. Katherine Brandt, a musicologist who has written a book about Mozart and who now has a grant to study and publish an academic explanation of Beethoven’s obsession with Diabelli’s waltz. Unfortunately, she has recently been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive and physically debilitating disorder, which is also known as Lou Gehrig‘s disease. Sinda Nichols, a Fernandina Beach based actress who has performed her one-woman show, “The Belle of Amherst,” in North Florida and throughout the USA, as well as in Ireland, plays this role with a special poignancy that leaves the audience with no doubt about her determination to complete the project in the limited time left to her.
A sub-plot concerns Dr. Brandt’s relationship with her daughter Clara, as the two struggle to bridge the gaps that separate them. Clara is something of a free spirit; currently a costume designer, she wants to branch out into set design. She has gone through several professions and an equal number of boyfriends; Katherine sees her as undisciplined and perhaps mediocre. Kristen Walsh gives a spirited and involved performance as she tries to overcome her mother’s coldness and reluctance to accept her support.
Clara finds her latest love interest in Mike Clark, a nurse she meets at the hospital where her mother is being treated. Franklin Ritch, who is making his theatre debut in this area, portrays the role with animation, and speaks as much with his eyes and facial expressions as he does with his words. The result is a very off-beat character, one you will like.
Even though her health is failing, Katherine travels to Bonn, Germany to study at a library that maintains Beethoven’s archives. Here, she meets Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger, an archivist who is totally devoted to Beethoven and the “gatekeeper” who provides access to the material. With the same interests, she and Katherine soon become fast friends. Clara and Mike join her in Germany where they continue to grow closer. Caroline Lee, an award-winning actress, is a strong and versatile Dr. Ladenburger, and provides a lot of the humor in this play.
This is not a musical but rather a play with music, piano music by Laura Peden, who at various times plays portions of the Diabelli Variations. This music is lively and even toe tapping at times, and you do not need to be a classical music fan to enjoy it. Ms. Peden is a well-known musical director who has worked with all our local venues over the years.
This two-act play is done in short scenes that take place in various settings both here and abroad. The entire cast is on stage on one occasion, with, yes, Beethoven and Brandt together. As the play unfolds, you will notice the similarities in their lives as both are disabled and both consumed with their personal passions.Evan Gould is the “33 Variations” Production Manager with Sherry Walsh as Stage Manager
Lee Hamby is an extraordinary director, at home with an unusually wide range of theatrical styles. He is mostly known for his fabulous musicals, for which he often designs the costumes and does the chorography. He also designs sets, and has designed an elegantly minimalistic one for the current production, with a background covered with sheet music, and simple furnishings. Hamby’s casting and direction has made “33 Variations” a powerful and provocative theatrical experience.
We have seen several plays at the Cummer and hope in the future they bring in additional ones, perhaps one-person shows that use simple sets and have low production costs. This space, which was filled with comfortable seats on risers, brings us close enough to the characters to feel each twinge of their collective pains.
The Cafe, the restaurant on the premises of the Cummer, can turn the evening into a dinner theatre experience if you so desire. Their food offerings are truly gourmet, and for this occasion, they have a fixed price menu. We chose flatbread caprese as an appetizer, which was delicious. The Chimmichurri Flank Steak was absolutely some of best we have ever had anywhere. The Asian Chop-Chop salad topped by chicken as an entree, was huge and featured a delightful slightly spicy peanut-coconut dressing. NOTE: The cafe is open for lunch and snacks daily except for Mondays, when the Museum is closed, and also offers a fabulous tapas menu beginning at 5 pm on Tuesdays. You can choose to dine inside or out on the adjacent patio. If questions, the phone number for the cafe is 904-899-6022.
Reservations are recommended. For tickets, with or without dinner, visit the5&dime.org. It’s $37 for Dining & Show or $15 for Show Only if purchased 24 hours in advance; add an additional $5 if purchased the day of the show.