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Monday, 13 February 2012 10:21

Dissonance

Written by Thomas Waldman, Theatre Reviewer
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dissonance-press1.jpg - 83.59 KbThe first several minutes of Damian Lanigan's "Dissonance," now at the Falcon Theatre, are devoted to a testy debate between the two violinists in a string quartet regarding the proper tempo for playing a piece by Mozart. James (Daniel Gerroll), older of the pair, argues for the traditional moderate pace; Hal (Peter Larney), tired of simply satisfying audience expectations, wants it performed at greater speed.

A vote is taken of the other two members - viola player and cellist - and Hal wins. James bitterly accepts the will of the majority, and returns to his seat. This will not be the last time these two would clash over the correct interpretation of particular compositions and composers.

Theatergoers don't need much familiarity with the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and other European masters from the 18th and 19th centuries to enjoy "Dissonance," which is set in and around New York at the present time. The frequent discussions involving the classical music repertoire are neither esoteric nor pedantic, and should be highly entertaining to general audiences. The excerpts from chamber pieces we hear coming out of the Falcon's ample speakers sound exquisite - whomever the composer.

But it will help to be predisposed to hearing musicians discuss their craft. Close to half of this two-act play involves passionate conversations between the cellist Beth (Elizabeth Schmidt) and a rock star named Jonny (Jeffrey Cannata) about the emotional and sensual power of various kinds of music; on record, and especially, in live performance. The two meet when he comes to her for a cello lesson.

In Beth and Jonny, Lanigan has given us two fantasy characters, which must have been great fun for him to create, and for director Crispin Whittell to stage.

Jonny has the same first name as the mythical dreamboat of several 1950s pop songs, yet his appearance and musical style suggest a combination of Bruce Springsteen and Metallica. The character also speaks in complete, articulate sentences, and can write and perform sensitive ballads on acoustic guitar that even meet Beth's exacting standards. Has anyone like this ever existed in the entire history of rock and roll?

Beth is thin, studious, intelligent and naturally pretty; the kind of woman who would garner the amorous attention of undergraduates, graduate students, and professors. Playing the cello, Beth abandons all claims to respectability; Jonny is mesmerized watching his teacher sway wildly, back and forth, as she takes a piece of music to its conclusion. No rock guitarist ever made love so passionately to his instrument.

Among the actors, Gerroll stands out in his depiction of the bitter, aging lead violinist, who despises himself for standing on tradition as much as he despises those who seek to upend it. After all, we would like to think of artists as flexible, and open to new ideas.

Larney's Hal nicely captures the ongoing frustration of a young, risk-inclined performer who feels stifled by the classical music establishment. As Paul, the unassuming viola player (apparently that's typical of the profession) Skip Pipo is a resigned, humorous target for the jokes and wisecracks of the others, especially James.

The set, by Francois-Pierre Couture, features neatly-carved wood panel structures that enhance the aura of sophistication one would expect in a play about classical music. Nick McCord's lighting - cool purple in Act One, a kind of brunt orange in Act Two - has the snug feel of an evening in early May.

"Dissonance" runs Wed-Sat at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. through March 4th. Tickets at weekday performances run from $34.50 to $37; weekends, from $39.50 to $42. Ticket prices for students with valid ID are $27 for all performances. To purchase tickets call the Falcon Theatre box office at 818-955-8101 or go online at www.falcontheatre.com. The Falcon Theatre is located at 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank.

Read 5114 times Last modified on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 13:49
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