by Anthony Chase
Beth Donohue makes it a rule: Never begin rehearsals for a new play while you are still performing in another. As the mother of young children, the actress insists that the time commitment simply takes too much time away from her family. But when the chance to play Katherine Brandt in Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations came along, she made an exception, even though she was still appearing as Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man.
This is the role that brought Jane Fonda back to Broadway in 2009. Kaufman is the celebrated author (with members of his Tectonic Theater Company) of such scripts as The Laramie Project and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.
“I had never seen the play,” explains Donohue, “but when I read the script, I connected with this woman and her story very powerfully. It connected to my own personal life and to my creative life, and I could easily see how the work would have the same impact on every member of the audience.”
33 Variations follows the personal journey of a musicologist obsessed with Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. She travels to the Beethoven archive in Bonn, seeking understand why, toward the end of his career with his hearing failing, Beethoven devoted so much of his talent to writing numerous variations on a simple bar-room waltz by an unimportant composer. Simultaneously, her own physical abilities are diminishing due to the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and she is coming to terms with her relationship to her daughter.
The play is both funny and powerful, and at times switches back to Beethoven’s time. David Oliver directs a cast headed by Donohue with Morgan Chard, John Fredo, Adriano Gatto, Ellen Horst, Tim Newell, Brian Riggs, and Randall Kramer at the piano. 33 Variations opens this week and plays through December 2 at MusicalFare Theatre (4380 Main Street, Snyder). Call 839-8540 for tickets
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