Three Pianos at Ontological

After several less then satisfying outings in a row I can’t begin to tell you what a pleasure it was to see THREE PIANOS at The Ontological. That’s the cycle right? You see a bunch of disappointing stuff and just when you’re ready to give up you see the show that keeps you going.

THREE PIANOS is smart, funny, thoughtful and even educational. Basically, the premise is that three friends get together to work their way through Franz Schubert’s Winterreise song cycle, explaining and exploring the songs, their meaning and their history. Along the way the three friends  – Rick Burkhardt of the Nonsense Company, Alec Duffy of Hoi Polloi and Dave Malloy of Banana Bag & Bodice – also end up playing at being Schubert and his friends at a drunken party. Soon the two separate gatherings collide and intermingle in surreal and effecting ways, the timing-shifted parties give way to interpersonal conflict over art, poetry and the meaning of life – all the while following the path of the Wanderer, who is the protagonist of Schubert’s song cycle.

Deftly directed by Rachel Chavkin of The TEAM, THREE PIANOS is performed with skillful musicianship and engaging acting. As they move the pianos around the stage in various configurations you’ll be amazed that they keep performing this complicated and beautiful music without missing a beat. Literally.

It is an ambitious task to embark on creating a contemporary re-setting of classical music that is accessible and theatrical, yet the THREE PIANOS team has managed to do it. It is a unique and enjoyable show that entertains while instructing, that draws you into the shifting plots and keeps you entertained and engaged.

I strongly encourage you to check out THREE PIANOS – it is a real gem of a piece, definitely not your run-of-the-mill experimental downtown mishmosh but a well-planned, carefully constructed, precise (but still endearingly messy), composition from three very talented artists.

Hoi Polloi
Three Pianos
Written and Performed by Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy and Dave Malloy
Directed by Rachel Chavkin

February 25—March 20, 2010
Performed everyday except Mondays and Wednesdays at 8p.m.
At The Ontological Theater at St. Mark’s Church • 131 East 10th Street (at 2nd Ave.)

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