Thespian Thrilling and Deep Tissue Drilling

Last Tuesday I took in an intriguing theatrical production, Armin Wiebe's The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz. The play focuses on a young Manitoban couple in the 1930's, their attempts to conceive a child, their hosting of a frantic Russian musician, and, more importantly, the dynamics between the characters.



The play, set on the Manitoban prairie, is acted by four people alone, Tom Keenan and Daria Puttaert of Zooey & Adam fame, Eric Nyland and Tracy Penner. Tom Keenan and Tracy Penner play the roles of Obrum and Susch Kehler, the young couple two years into their marriage and still childless. Eric Nyland plays Beethoven Blatz, the frenzied musician with a deceased love, and Tracy Penner plays Teen, lesbian-leaning friend to Susch.


The play was well-acted, no small feat considering the entire two-hour plot was placed on the shoulders of four people alone. The accents, put on I presume, lasted throughout the entire play, and fit the characters and plot comfortably. The set was minimal, just the bones of a cottage abode and a makeshift moon I found instantly endearing. However, the part of the production I enjoyed most was the brummtopp instrument. this friction drum emits an unholy growl that captivated me.


Following the play, Armin Wiebe sat with us for a time, speaking about the background of the piece. Wiebe commented that the idea for the play originated from a shot story he'd written, And Besides God Made Poison Ivy, which itself stemmed from a story he'd once heard about his grandfather. He also came by our school later that week, to extend this dialogue. During this seminar, I asked the playwright about a specific set decision that had intriuged me. Much of the play involved a piano that Beethoven Blatz had been commissioned by Obrum to both repair and use to instruct Susch musically. This piano has the face removed, exposing the innards of the instrument. I inquired of Armin if this was a stylistic choice intended to the connect the audience to the music more corporeally, and through such connect them to Beethoven Blatz to a greater degree. The playwright responded that this had simply been used to express that the piano was in disrepair. Intentional or not, I felt the music more because I could see it.


One thing I must thank the play for is reigniting within me a passion for classical music. I was once told by a man I consider to be incredibly intelligent that only people who don't listen to classical music call it classical music. I refuse to be one of those people for much longer.


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