Stephanie Zacharek's Mar 9, 2009 New York Magazine review:

33 Variations

In Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations, Jane Fonda plays an American musicologist—a Beethoven specialist—who decides to go ahead with a research trip to Bonn, Germany, even though she's just been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). It's a grim prognosis for her, but maybe it's worse for us: Nothing can kill a night of pleasure at the theater faster than a play about death, life, and the meaning of art, the kind of thing in which characters exist only as mouthpieces for disembodied ideas.

But 33 Variations isn't, blessedly, that sort of play: Kaufman, who also directed this production, clearly wants to keep our nerve endings alive, not deaden them. The title refers to Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, in which the composer used Anton Diabelli's waltz as a springboard for his own rich but playful ideas. (The pianist and musical director here, Diane Walsh, interprets the work with a graceful touch, allowing plenty of air and light to flow through it.) Fonda's Dr. Katherine Brandt is so obsessed with the genesis of the Variations that she can't quite see them for what they are, just as she can't quite connect with her daughter, Clara (Samantha Mathis)—their relationship has always been cordial but not exactly warm. It's further stressed as Clara, while struggling with the reality of her mother's illness, embarks on a fledgling romance with the nurse who's been caring for her, Mike (played by Colin Hanks; he and Mathis perform a charming, tentative courtship duet . . .

Jane Fonda’s blog:

(Moises Kaufman and the Members of Tectonic Theater Project are represented in the Applause Theatre and Cinema book: One On One, The Best Men's Monologues for the 21st Century.)

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