The Pianist of Willesden Lane | Royal George Theatre Center | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

The Pianist of Willesden Lane The Short List (Theater) Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 4 2013

Hershey Felder has created niche for himself, building a series of biographical solo pieces around legendary composers. His 2011 Maestro, for instance, had him acting the part—and playing the music—of Leonard Bernstein. Now Felder has extended that MO to another performer. In this show developed under his tutelage, Mona Golabek takes on the role of her own mother, pianist Lisa Jura. Per the formula, Golabek's Jura tells how her life as a Viennese child prodigy came to an end with the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, how she was evacuated to London through the Kindertransport program, and how she kept her ambitions alive despite the hardships of the war. She punctuates the recitation with passages from Grieg, Beethoven, and others. Golabek is a marvelous pianist—bright, strong, agile, and emotive. But as an actress, she's, well, a marvelous pianist. Physically and vocally unsophisticated, she lacks the chops to handle a character who ages from 13 to about 20 in the course of the story. What's more, the story itself isn't that remarkable in the lore of the Holocaust. All Golabek has to say is "Jewish," "Vienna," and "1938," and we've pretty much got the gist. Her obvious urge to valorize her mother doesn't help, either. Ironically, Golabek seems to have a much more intriguing story in the romance and marriage of her parents—but she only gets to that toward the end and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. —Tony Adler

Price: $44-$49



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