Today I saw 33 Variations.
33 Variations is a Broadway play that stars, among other great actors, Jane Fonda and Colin Hanks. The play interweaves the personal development of Jane Fonda’s character, who studies Beethoven’s work, and the history behind Beethoven composing 33 variations of a seemingly simple waltz.
This was such a fantastic, such an amazing play. I feel changed by it, I feel expanded and my soul deeply moved by it.
Visually the play was truly a masterwork. The stage was not just a bare stage that required for the imagination of the audience to play a part in the performance. The stage décor was designed so well. It was so modern and at the same time so classic with the archives reminding us that the play is an exploration into Beethoven’s past but also an exploration into Jane Fonda’s character and the emotions and reasons behind her troubled relationship with her daughter. The sound bites and the visual images were very stimulating. They truly enriched the experience of the great acting and the wonderful story, giving it another sensory dimension and transforming it into a remarkable play.
I loved how the characters of these two different time periods shared not only the stage but also similar difficulties and how each discovered their own resolution and how the plot moved so seamlessly from the present to Beethoven’s days and back.
What I found most intriguing is the glimpse I was offered into Beethoven’s genius. There was a scene where Beethoven was out of music sheet paper so he wrote on the shutters of the windows. What an amazing moment of inspiration that must have been! Feeling so possessed by the music inside you. The music grabbing a hold of you, bursting inside you, seeking expression and then the results delighting you and making you want to surrender every time when that creative flow of the universe arises in you.
And that emotional state of being in the flow of inspiration and creativity was so well portrayed when Zach Grenier, who played Beethoven, verbally and with the movements of his body showed us what it is like to be a “channel for God,” as he said it in his own words. It was such a powerful moment that I too felt inside me the excitement and the surge of divine creativity seeking expression.
The music, which the characters created, studied and discussed, was performed live. This contributed to the magic of the play and made it ever so real and vibrant.
Needless to say, Jane Fonda looked so beautiful, so full of life and despite her age had a remarkable body. Her character had Lou Gehrig’s disease. I admire her for so skillfully presenting the physical and emotional difficulties which the disease brings. It tells me that she has developed a great empathy for people who suffer from it, she identifies with them, understands the symptoms and when on stage she truly deals with the challenges they deal with. Energy, thoughts and emotions create. That is why the character she creates is so real and complex. Therefore, I really hope that she has found the way to cut the cord between her and her character and become herself again after the curtain falls so that none of the emotions she brings to life on stage affect the vitality and the healthiness of her own body.
I absolutely loved the character which Susan Kellermann created. She was a very kind, understanding and loving person who despite all the drama around her remained firmly grounded, devoted and loving. The world needs more heroines like her!
Before the play began Rita Wilson walked out of a side stage door. I imagine she gave Jane Fonda a big hug and lovingly said to Colin Hanks that he will do great and wished them both “Break a Leg.” Then she sat in the darkness of the theater and her mother’s heart swelled with pride as Colin Hanks fantastically showed how love changes our lives. I wonder if Rita Wilson asked herself if Colin is a better variation of Tom Hanks. Aren’t those the hopes of our parents? That we, their children, will exceed and surpass them and become better variations of them. That we will take their best notes and take on a life and development of our own and become masterpieces. Just like Beethoven’s 33 variations surpassed Anton Diabelli’s waltz.
I have had my fair share of musicals, plays, operas, ballets and concerts. Yet, I have never seen a performance which touched me so much. From the comments people around me shared on their way out, I can tell that we all felt the same way. I walked home after the show not noticing, not minding the rain, immersed in all the thought the play provoked. I want to thank everyone who made it possible for me to experience this amazing play.
I strongly recommend that you see 33 Variations.
A few notes for my lovely friends who believe that celebrities are just like us, regular people: Colin Hanks is Tom Hanks’ son from his first marriage. When Colin Hanks was 11, Tom Hanks married Rita Wilson. 33 Variations is Colin Hanks’ debut on Broadway. Jane Fonda has received numerous awards and recognitions including two Oscars.
Here you can here the original waltz by Anton Diabelli
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