From left, Michael Chobanoff as Ludwig von
Beethoven, Carl Liden as music publisher Anton
Diabelli and Cory Klein as Anton Schindler in
Waukesha Civic Theatre’s “33 Variations.”
Studios of Photography
- A totally fascinating experience awaits you in “33
Variations” by Moisés Kaufman. Two lives are examined
as each person living in different worlds faces the end
of his life, making choices as to how to live out his
story rotates back and forth between the struggles of
Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827) and an American
musicologist called Katherine, who spends her final
months in Bonn, Germany, Beethoven’s birthplace,
studying his notes to determine his motivation for
writing “33 Variations,” based on a motif found in
Diabelli’s musical composition.
Diabelli (Karl Liden), a composer of little note, had an
idea to publish a book based on original works of
well-known composers, each of whom would submit one
variation on a work by Diabelli himself. At first
Beethoven (Michael Chobanoff) refused, saying he was
working on another project and didn’t have the time.
was not a happy time for the accomplished musician. With
his faithful companion Anton Schindler (Cory Klein), he
was fighting poverty and progressive deafness, a
condition that started to afflict him at the early age
of 25. But he was very gifted and very obsessive about
(Beth Perry) had received a diagnosis of ALS, often
called Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a very debilitative
illness, but she is determined to finish her thesis on
this Beethoven mystery, so despite her daughter
Clara’s (Ruth Arnell) warning to stay at home near her
doctor, she made the journey by herself. In her
research, she finds a friend and a mentor in Gertie
(Paula Garcia), the librarian in charge of old
manuscripts at the Bonn Library.
the parallel stories between the German composer and a
woman who idolized him, this story also deals with
Katherine’s relationship with her only daughter.
Katherine is a driven woman who lives by her
brain more than her heart. Their relationship is
strained at best, for Katherine is obviously
disappointed in her daughter’s tendency to flit from
one interest to another instead of dedicating herself to
one passion, as she herself did.
Parental expectations can often serve as a
barrier rather than an inspiration and a means of
establishing a loving bond.
Katherine’s condition worsens, Clara, along with her
boyfriend and nurse (Nicholas Callan Haubner), a man
whom she met during one of her mother’s medical
visits, go to Bonn to be of service.
times both Beethoven and Katherine speak directly to the
audience. There is also a pianist on stage who performs
some of the composer’s variations on Diabelli’s
theme. (Julie Johnson executes his works with
sensitivity and aplomb.) The whole play is structured in
a very innovative way.
the creative concept inherent in the script, the careful
individuation of each character, the very capable
actors, one and all, that comprise the cast, and the
masterful direction of Dustin J. Martin, the production
is quite an astounding theatrical tour de force for a
community theater. I can’t imagine a professional one
surpassing its excellence. Don’t let this one get by.
Due to an omission on my part, in my recent preview of
spring plays, I failed to mention the Waukesha Civic
Theatre’s next production, “The Drowsy Chaperone,”
which opens April 28.
was an oversight on my part, for which I deeply
apologize. After all, the WCT is one of my favorite
places to spend my time.
drama runs through March 26 at the Waukesha Civic
Theatre, 264 W. Main St., Waukesha. Call 262-547-0708 or