Old Wicked Songs
Central Coast premiere of Jon Marans' Pulitzer Prize nominee provides food for thought.
Thursday, June 3, 1999
There are cases where life mirrors art, and there are times when art mirrors life. And then there are cases where you find art mirroring art mirroring life--take for example Pacific Repertory Theater''s Old Wicked Songs that''s opening this weekend at The Golden Bough.
On the surface, at least, the plot sounds pretty straightforward. As described by director Dan Gotch, it goes something like this: "This famous piano prodigy, Hoffman, has hit total creative block, he''s just totally lost it. So, a year after he stops playing, he gets sent to Vienna to study with this famous master. But instead of studying with the guy he thinks he''s going to study with, he winds up in this broken down study with this old guy, Mashkan."
And instead of studying great masterpieces, Hoffman finds that he''s set to studying Schumann''s "Dichterliebe," a relatively simple piano work, and discovers that he''s slated to be the mere accompanist for a vocalist who will be the star of the recital. It''s a potent come-uppance for the former wunderkind.
Obviously, even on the surface, there''s plenty of room for the dialogue, character development and plot twists that make for good drama. But if you scratch just a little deeper, you''ll find there are layers upon layers of meaning.
Start with the play''s structure. This isn''t just two actors sitting around jabbering at each other. The actors are required to play the piano (or at least look convincing while they''re faking it) and sing as well as deliver dialogue. It''s the kind of structure that almost forces audiences to think about the interlocking nature of the arts, as well as the ways "art" and "life" intersect.
The choice of Schumann''s "Dichterliebe" as the show''s leit motif provides another whole set of interpretative layers.
Translated, "Dichterliebe" is "poet''s love" and Schumann''s song cycle is based on the poetry of Heinrich Heine. According to Gotch, the songs are about "innocence, lost love, getting on with your life and other romantic things like that." On one level, the cycle mirrors Hoffman''s predicament and speaks to the development that must take place within him. At another level, the song cycle mirrors Schumann''s own tragic life.
In his early 20s, Schumann fell in love with one of his pupils, Clara Weick, who was some 10 years younger than him. Her father forbade their marriage not only because of her tender age, but also because Schumann didn''t show a lot of promise as either a teacher or a conductor. And, thus, another tale of timeless, forbidden love was born.
The pair overcame Wieck''s dad''s objections and married in 1840, when Schumann was 30. Ultimately, Wieck went on to become a renowned pianist in her own right, while Schumann went mad and eventually died in 1856.
"What Schumann went through almost epitomizes the romantic sensibility," says Gotch, "and the ''Dichterliebe'' becomes a metaphor for the journey that both Hoffman and Mashkan go on. The story parallels the song cycle."
Gotch says the story can also be interpreted at an entirely different level, pointing out that the playwright, Jon Marans, wrote Wicked Old Songs in Vienna in 1978.
"There were bomb threats against local synagogues and he became fascinated with the city, which is sort of the focal point of European, romantic music, but let''s face it. It was also a bastion of Nazism. It''s been said there were more Nazis in Austria than there ever were in Germany."
Regardless of what level the audience chooses to approach Old Wicked Songs, it seems there will provide plenty of fodder for late-night conversations. cw
American Folklore Revue Saturday only: 2 & 4pm. Spoken Word. ...and Traveling Medicine Show. Three offerings from American literature, including "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed," "The Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County," and "Casey At the Bat." Also tall tales, songs, and medicine show. Hoffman Playhouse, 320 Hoffman St., Monterey. $5/General; $5/Children; $5/Seniors. 649-0259. Through: 6/5.
Golf With Alan Shepard Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. Comedic Drama. Comedy by Carter W. Lewis centers around the weekly grudge golf matches played by four retired men. As they play, the men find themselves confronting each other as well as their own hopes and fears. Western Stage of Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. $18/General; $16/Seniors. 755-6816, 375-2111. Through: 6/19.
Old Wicked Songs Preview: Tuesday, 7:30pm; Opening: Wednesday, 7:30pm. Drama. This play by Jon Marans was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 and is a Central Coast premiere. See article above. Circle Theater at the Golden Bough, Casanova Street between 8th and 9th avenues, Carmel. Through: 7/15.
Sherlock''s Last Case Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 7pm. Mystery/Thriller. This irreverent mystery satire centers around mistaken identities following a death threat received by Sherlock Holmes from the son of his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. This Unicorn Theater production is directed by Sonny Jenkins and Derek K. Niegemann, with Michael Nielond as Holmes, and Peter M. Eberhardt as Dr. Watson. Hoffman Playhouse, 320 Hoffman St., Monterey. $15/General; $12/Children; $12/Seniors. 649-0259. Through: 7/3.
Spring Festival of Plays Saturday, 10am; Sunday, noon. Children. Children''s Experimental Theater offers its annual festival of plays performed by students. Day performances include Biddy and the Elves, The Three Sillies, Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel. The senior class presents The Ghosts of Thorenshield in the evening. Call for schedule. Indoor Forest Theater, Mountain View and Santa Rita streets, Carmel. Free. 624-1531. Through: 6/13.
Tony Awards Celebration Sunday, 8pm. Special Event. The Monterey County Theater Alliance presents its fourth annual Tony Awards celebration. Coinciding with the Tony Awards held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, partygoers are invited to vote for their top theatrical choices. Door prizes, live Tony Awards telecast and no-host bar. Reservations recommended. Safari Club at Bay Park Hotel, Soledad Drive and Munras Avenue, Monterey. $3/General. Through: 6/6.
Master Class Friday & Saturday, 7:30pm. Drama. This Tony Award-winning play--really a series of vignettes--by Terrence McNally is subtitled "A Love Letter to Maria Callas" and stars New York City actress Tamir. Master Class is, for most purposes, a one-woman show loosely based on the larger-than-life opera diva Maria Callas. Sid Cato directs this Pacific Repertory Theater production. $18/General; $20/Saturday nights, with discounts for students, seniors, teachers. Golden Bough Theater, Monte Verde Street, between 8th and 9th avenues, Carmel. 372-2721. Through: 7/11.
Church of the Wayfarer Lecture. Daniel Dixon discusses the works of his parents, painter Maynard Dixon and photographer Dorothea Lange. Garden Room at the Church of the Wayfarer, Lincoln Street and 7th Avenue, Carmel. 622-0520. Reception: 6/6, 2pm. Through: 6/6.
Henry Miller Library Lacandon: Past and Present. Opening Reception. Photographs and memorabilia from 1945-47 by Giles Healey; photographs of Lacandon people from 1996 by William Warner. Also a showing on 6/5 of The Maya Through the Ages, a film shot and edited by Giles Healey, at the Big Sur Grange Hall at 7pm. Highway 1, Big Sur. 667-2574. Reception: 6/5, 2-6pm. Through: 6/25.
Sunset Center The Hand of the Artist. Lecture. Joy Savage exhibits and discusses the sketches she''s made of people from around the world. Presented by the Monterey Peninsula Art Foundation. Room 18, Sunset Center, 10th Avenue and San Carlos Street, Carmel. 624-4262. Lecture: 6/6, 2pm. Through: 6/6.
Weston Gallery Opening Reception. New photographs by Michael Kenna. 6th Avenue near Lincoln Street, Carmel. 624-4453. Reception: 6/5, 4:30pm. Through: 7/19.
Alvarado Gallery Seldom Seen. Exhibit. Paintings by Evelyn M. McCormick of unique Monterey County buildings. In the Monterey Conference Center, #1 Portola Plaza, Monterey. 646-3858. Through: 6/21.
Ansel Adams Gallery
From Dye Transfer to Digital--An Evolution in Color Printing. Exhibit. Photographs and prints by Charles Cramer using high tech digital-imaging techniques. At the Inn at Spanish Bay, 2700 17 Mile Dr., Pebble Beach. 375-7215. Through: 6/15.
Back Porch Fabrics Straight from the Right. Exhibit. Quilts created by Regina Liske. 157 Grand Ave., Pacific Grove. 375-4453. Through: 6/24.
Carl Cherry Center Traveling. Opening Reception. Twenty-five paintings by Lisa Esherick that explore "real and imagined scenes from journeys." 4th Avenue and Guadalupe Street, Carmel. 624-7491. Through: 6/18.
Carmel Art Association Exhibit. Recent figurative acrylic paintings by Norma Z. Bhaskar; watercolor landscapes by Carol Parker; wildlife and western sculptures by Douglas Downs; resin and bronze sculptures by Ken Wiese; chine colle etchings by Susan Giacometti. Dolores Street, between 5th and 6th avenues, Carmel. 624-6176. Through: 7/7.
Carmel Valley Manor Exhibit. Mixed media by Kenneth McIntosh Daly. 8545 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley. 626-4806. Through: 6/30.
Center for Photographic Art Two Views. Exhibit. Father-and-son exhibit featuring photographs by black-and-white photographer Paul Caponigro and his son John Paul Caponigro, who works digitally. In the Sunset Cultural Center, San Carlos Street and 9th Avenue, Carmel. 625-5181. Through: 6/25.
da Giovanni Ristorante A Walk Through Italy. Exhibit. Black-and-white photographs by Jeanette Jancovicova. Lincoln Street, between 5th and 6th avenues, Carmel. 626-5800. Through: 7/20.
Fireside Lobby Henry Gilpin. Exhibit. Silver gelatin prints by noted photographer Henry Gilpin. At the Highlands Inn, Highway 1, Carmel. 624-3801. Through: 6/15.
Monterey Museum of Art--La Mirada Colorful Expressions. Exhibit. Landscape paintings by Andrs Morillo, including scenes of the Monterey area. Also "An Intimate View: Photographs by David J. Gubernick," nature photographs. 720 Via Mirada, Monterey. 372-3689. Through: 6/27.
Monterey Peninsula Airport Main Streets of Monterey County and Footprints of History. Exhibit. Antique photographs, personal recollections and memorabilia chronicling the history and transformation of local main streets. 200 Fred Kane Dr., Monterey. 624-7910. Through: 9/30.
National Steinbeck Center Ruckus Rodeo. Exhibit. A walk-through, sculpto-pictorama "which brings to life the excitement of a modern rodeo." Created by Red Grooms, the exhibit fills the entire gallery space with sculptures and paintings. 1 Main St., Salinas. 796-3833. Through: 7/18.
Pacific Grove Art Center Intact and Upright. Exhibit. Paintings by Kent Alexander; A View of Life, paintings by Barbara Reding; BioMorphs 3D, photographs by Steve Aubrey; woodcuts by Andrea Rich. 568 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 375-2208. Through: 6/18.
Pajaro Valley Gallery Surf''s Up! Exhibit. Works by local surfers/artists. 37 Sudden St., Watsonville. 722-3062. Through: 6/12.
Peninsula Potters Back to Basics. Exhibit. Original handmade, functional pottery by local collective. 2078 Sunset Dr., Pacific Grove. 372-8867. Through: 6/30.
PG Museum of Natural History Out of the Tidepools. Exhibit. Works, including never-before published photographs and letters, that chronicle the real life Ed "Doc" Ricketts. Through: 6/30. Also, Landforms. Exhibit. Photographs by Joe Hertzbach that "define his vision of the world: intricate textures, shapes, and shades." Through 7/4. 165 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove. 648-3116.
Vest Pocket Gallery A Family Exhibit: Mothers and Daughters. Paintings by Dorothy Urrizolo, Lauri Marshall and Wanita Anderson. At Forest Hill Manor, 551 Gibson Ave., Pacific Grove. 657-5200. Through: 6/30.
Zantman Galleries Exhibit. Recent works in oil by Ted Goerschner. 6th Avenue and Mission Street, Carmel. 624-8314. Through: 6/11.