Fur Beethoven | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Fur Beethoven

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FUR BEETHOVEN, Journeymen Theater Company. In press materials, director Tonika Todorova maintains that the biodrama she conceived (Jeremy Beiler wrote the script) is told "from Beethoven's perspective." Yet this rudimentary pageant, offering little information one couldn't gather from 45 minutes on Google, has no discernible point of view at all. The basic elements of Beethoven's life--his troubled youth under an abusive father, ambitious early adulthood in Vienna, struggles to overcome bourgeois disdain for his formal innovations, and eventual retreat into deafness and paranoia--remain episodes that never coalesce into a meaningful whole.

Yet Todorova seems to want to rebel against the piece's dry conventionality. Sometimes she stages scenes simultaneously though the events occurred years apart, and she comes up with a muse for the composer, an otherworldly woman in white who coaxes sensuous music from his fevered imagination. Most courageously, Todorova plunges the play into silence in its final half hour, when Beethoven is completely deaf: the actors mouth the dialogue soundlessly. But these imaginative touches can't add genuine depth to such a sketchy script.

Elly Anderson provides serviceable keyboard accompaniment throughout, and the 13 cast members perform well, though only Roger Ainslie as Beethoven is given enough material to develop a full character. In addition to admirable piano technique, he displays enough fire and intelligence to give the character stature.

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