Hershey Felder conjures an incredible portrait of ‘Beethoven’ at TheatreWorks

By Ande Jacobson

We have all heard his music. Ludwig van Beethoven, famous for his nine symphonies along with his ubiquitous piano compositions and other chamber works, is more than just the sum of his music. Hershey Felder is back on the TheatreWorks stage telling the fascinating story of Beethoven’s life from the perspectives of both Gerhard von Breuning and the maestro himself. Hershey Felder, Beethoven, with text by Hershey Felder, is based on Dr. Gerhard von Breuning’s personal recollections published in 1874 in “Aus dem Schwarzspanierhaus.” Felder’s presentation, punctuated by his piano virtuosity, is absolutely stunning. Continue reading

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“Proof” examines the infinitesimally short distance between genius and crazy

Proof Prod 6_Kevin BerneBy Ande Jacobson

When I was an undergraduate, I took a number theory course. I wasn’t a math major, but something about the subject called to me, even though it wasn’t required for my major. Our professor’s eyes danced with joy as he described the beauty inherent in number theory because of its “pretty proofs”. He went on to teach us some of their intricacies, and his proofs were indeed beautiful. Proof, by David Auburn, explores the artistry and drama of mathematics (specifically prime numbers), along with the genius and madness of its practitioners. As expected, TheatreWorks’ production of Auburn’s prize-winning play is primed for greatness. Continue reading

Two of the best pianists in the ____

2Pianos4Hands-10_KevinBerneBy Ande Jacobson

Remember The Great Dane? No, not the dog. Victor Borge, the Danish pianist who combined his piano prowess with a comedic delivery that both wowed audiences and had them rolling in the aisles with laughter. 2 Pianos 4 Hands, the current production at TheatreWorks, contains much of the same musical and comic genius that made Borge famous, particularly the opening as the two actor/pianists clad in concert tails take the stage in front of two grand pianos. What follows seems like two Borges for a while, but they are not. They are Darren Dunstan and Christopher Tocco portraying the co-authors of the play, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. Well, in this case, it’s fair to say that Dunstan and Tocco literally “play” Ted and Richard given how much music they make during their performances, and they are guaranteed to delight audiences throughout the run. Continue reading

Meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man behind the legend

TheMountaintop7_MKitaokaBy Ande Jacobson

TheatreWorks celebrates the accomplishments of an American icon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the regional premiere of The Mountaintop.  Playwright Katori Hall takes us on a journey to better understand the man behind the legend through a chance meeting between King and Camae.  Camae is the maid on duty when King calls room service to bring him a cup of coffee to help him stay awake to finish his speech for the next day.  The next day is 4 April 1968, King’s last.  Despite the story taking place the night of his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech and immediately before his assassination, Hall’s play is not morbid.  It is instead a gripping story filled with grit and humor showing us King’s fears and his triumphs, making him more accessible than public perceptions would imply.  As Michael Eric Dyson states in his forward to the play, “The Mountaintop portrays a man who is much more interesting and useful when his blemishes and virtues are shown together.” Continue reading

When old becomes new again

By Ande Jacobson

TheatreWorks is known for premiering new theatrical works.  Only having run once before in New York, playwright Carly Mensch’s new comedy, “Now Circa Then”, is making its West Coast debut at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Continue reading

The Secret is Out

By Ande Jacobson

Twenty years ago, a favorite children’s story hit the Broadway stage in a colorful, musical adaptation that sailed to eight 1991 Tony Award nominations and won three of them. The story was “The Secret Garden”, and it has delighted audiences since its debut. Continue reading

The Fury of the Gods Brings a Family Closer Together

By Ande Jacobson

TheatreWorks is presenting another world premiere with “Clementine in the Lower 9”, a new play by Dan Dietz dealing with the fallout and personal tragedy of a New Orleans family following hurricane Katrina. Dietz patterned his play using the Greek tragedy form, specifically on Aeschylus’ “Agamemnon” and infused it with blues music created by composer Justin Ellington. Though not a musical, the music is central to the mood, imagery, and tone of the play. Continue reading