Sunday, April 19, 2015

I Was Dubious…

A friend called a couple of weeks ago and asked if I was interested in going to see a play with them. When she explained what the play was about… a pianist I was a little dubious about going. A play about a pianist? But I decided to go to see The Pianist of Willesden Lane.

So we met for dinner at a restaurant at Buckland Hills in Manchester, so I set my GPS at the address on the restaurant’s website. When it said that I have arrived, the mall all the dozens of satellite stores and I started driving around looking for the restaurant, but with all the traffic it was hard to look for it and drive. Lucky one friend called me wondering where I was and she was able to direct me there.

After dinner we car pooled to Hartford Stage. The Hartford Courant said this about the play,
The life story of Mona Golabek's mother, Lisa Jura, is entrancing without its engrossing musical soundtrack. As a 14-year-old girl in Nazi-occupied Austria, Jura was sent alone by her family to London on the Kindertransport, the rescue operation that saved some 10,000 children in the months leading up to World War II. As Golabek tells it, her mother's adventure was a relatively upbeat one of perseverance in the face of adversity. Placed in a home that doesn't allow her to pursue her dreams of becoming a great musician, Jura runs away and arranges a better situation for herself in an orphanage in Northwestern London. There, she is able to concentrate on her playing. The commitment and talent endear her to others on Willesden Lane and lead to deep friendships and life-changing opportunities.

Golabek is not a particularly great actress. Much of her storytelling seems rote, and she acts largely with her hands — sweeping gestures for emphasis and even moments of mime when suggesting such characters as a maid or a man with an eyepatch or saluting when discussing the military. But her physical performance is not the point of "The Pianist of Willesden Lane." Golabek brings a warmth and sweetness to the stage, a genuine love and admiration for the woman she is portraying. (In the program notes, she calls her mother, who died in 1997, "my best friend.") She recites Lisa Jura's story clearly and efficiently. The real emotion of the piece lies in her piano playing, which is transcendent. Golabek performs bits of Beethoven's "Moonlight" and "Waldstein" sonatas, Chopin's "Opus 9 No.1" and "Scherzo No.2," Bach's "Partita," Scriabin's "Etude in D# Minor," Rachmaninoff's "Prelude Op. 2," and especially the Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor. That's where she does her mother proud. When she plays these familiar classical works, she embodies that passionate young woman in the story, overwhelmed and inspired by the beauty of the music to take control of her life during a time of isolation, insecurity and global pandemonium.
The story was the play and not the acting, and it was very moving and emotional at times. When Lisa Jura was separated from her family on the Kindertransport I had tears in my eyes and when she was giving her solo performance at the Royal Academy of Music the day the war in Europe ended and she was united with her sisters I was also sniffing.

There was incident that tried to bring me down but I will not let do so (I will write about it later), so I give the night five stars out of five.

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