33 Variations

Kathy Jones, left, and Debra Ebersole rehearse a scene in Church Hill Theatre’s production of “33 Variations.”

CHURCH HILL — Church Hill Theatre will open “33 Variations,” bringing one of Beethoven’s finest piano works to the stage, on Friday, Sept. 6.

With Stephanie King LaMotte playing the grand piano, director Michael Whitehill shifts between the 19th and 21st centuries, exploring musical, medical and intellectual enigmas.

In the play, written by Moises Kaufman, musicologist Katherine Brandt, coping with an advancing case of ALS, pursues her research on the background of Beethoven’s variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli. Her story alternates and intersects on the stage with Beethoven’s own reaction to his growing deafness and his fascination with a brief work by a minor musician.

“It’s really a question about inspiration … What is it that Beethoven sees …,” Kaufman said. “It would be like if Philip Glass found a song by Britney Spears and decided to spend the next four years of his life studying and making variations on it. “

Whitehill’s cast includes Kathy Jones as the present-day music expert, Katherine Brandt; Kendall Irene Davis as her daughter, Clara; Robbie Spray as Mike Clark, Katherine’s nurse; and Debra Ebersole as Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger, a German music librarian.

In period costume (thanks to the Annapolis Opera Company), Eddie Vance plays Ludwig Van Beethoven, Ken Gresh plays Anton Diabelli, and Will Robinson portrays Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s secretary and business manager.

LaMotte, on stage throughout the performance, plays all 33 variations, considered (along with Bach’s “Goldberg Variations”) to be the finest ever written.

The production staff includes producer Sylvia Maloney, stage manager Ronald Lee “Speedy” Christopher Jr., dramaturge Shelagh Grasso and choreographer Cavin Moore. Doug Kaufmann is in charge of lighting and sound, and Steve Atkinson is the photographer.

“33 Variations” will run through Sept. 22, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for CHT members and $10 for students; opening night tickets are available at two for the price of one.

Reservations are advised, and can be made by calling the box office at 410-556-6003 or online at www.churchhilltheatre.org.

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