Off-Broadway Review: “One Discordant Violin” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday November 24, 2019)
Off-Broadway Review: “One Discordant Violin” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday November 24, 2019) By Anthony Black, Adapted from a Short Story by Yann Martel Directed by Ann-Marie Kerr and Anthony Black Original Score by Aaron Collier and Jacques Mindreau Reviewed by David Roberts Theatre Reviews Limited
Layers of discord populate the story line of Anthony Black’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s short story “The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton.” The short story appeared in Martel’s 2004 “The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios.” Reviewer Christopher Priest in the “The Guardian” called it “the best of the stories” with a subtle point “about the ephemeral quality of achievement, how near one can come, how far away it often is.”
That subtle point remains the theme of Anthony Black’s adaptation of the short story for the stage. The unnamed narrator (Anthony Black) visits his friend in Washington, DC in August 2001, a few weeks before the 9/11 attacks and happens upon the Merridew Theater and a notice for a special concert to be played that night at the theater. The program includes works by Albinoni, Bach, Telemann, and the world premiere of The Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by John Morton. Intrigued by the program and with nothing else to do, the narrator attends the concert.
Mr. Black is the consummate storyteller. He relates the events prior to, during, and after the concert using a full complement od literary tropes, including imagery, figurative language, repetition, logos, ethos, and pathos. He engages the audience with authenticity and makes every account believable and engaging. Throughout the storytelling, Jacques Mindreau plays an original score composed by Mindreau and Aaron Collier as well as selections from the baroque composers. Whether setting the mood or portraying John Morton, Mr. Mindreau’s artistry is remarkable and transcendent.
Under the co-direction of Ann-Marie Kerr and Anthony Black, the narrator moves around the decaying Merridew Theater (Mr. Black also designed the set) with a mixture of curiosity and fear and Jacques Mindreau plays (live-looped by sound designer Aaron Collier) behind translucent walls. When the violinist “represents John Morton, [he] stalks the stage, nearly like a ghost in the memory of the storyteller.” The surreal nature of the proceedings is furthered by the projection and lighting design by Nick Bottomley and Anna Shepard.
The narration “about the ephemeral quality of achievement, how near one can come, how far away it often is” is compelling and easily connects with the aspirations of each audience member and whether those aspirations ever reached fruition. The narrator’s meeting with John Morton at his workplace at a nearby bank is cathartic as Morton shares his life as Vietnam veteran, composer, and janitor for employees who “never ask for more.”
Somehow, Jacques Mindreau’s performance as actor and musician overshadows the text of Anthony Black’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s short story but that matters not. As a whole, “One Discordant Violin” satisfies the theatergoer’s palate with an enchanting story that rings true, is compellingly relatable, and plucks the strings of the heart with cosmic vibrations.
ONE DISCORDANT VIOLIN
The cast of “One Discordant Violin” features Anthony Black with a live score played by violinist Jacques Mindreau.
The design team includes Anthony Black (set design); Nick Bottomley and Anna Shepard (lighting design); Aaron Collier (live sound design and music direction); and Nick Bottomley (projection design). The production stage manager is Ingrid Risk.
“One Discordant Violin” runs at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street) through Sunday November 24, 2019 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday – Friday at 7:15 p.m.; Saturday at 2:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.; Sunday at 2:15 p.m. Single tickets are $25 - $35 ($26 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call the 59E59 Box Office at 646-892-7999 or visit www.59e59.org. The running time is 70 minutes with no intermission.
Photo: Jacques Mindreau and Anthony Black in “One Discordant Violin” at 59E59 Theaters. Credit: Carol Rosegg.
Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, November 18, 2019