Theater Review: 'The Piano Teacher'

 

Theater Review: 'The Piano Teacher'

 

Date: July 31, 2012
by: Paula Atwell | Theater Critic

 
 

 

Contemporary Playwright Julio Cho is also an actress and TV writer, who has won many awards for her theatrical work. She has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2004, and her plays include “The Language Archive,” “Durango,” “The Winchester House,” “BFE,” “The Architecture of Loss,” and “99 Histories.”

Banyan Co-Producers, Terri and Jerry Finn, picked another winner for their summer series with this understated, psychologically-spiked thriller about a suburban, retired piano teacher, whose life trajectory has been subtly, but tragically altered by her marriage to her foreign-born, now deceased husband, whom she thought of as a “refugee” who “looked up at me like he was dying of thirst and I was rain. I loved feeling like rain.”

Director Jim Wise has created an almost Hitchcockian suspense throughout the play, which opens on Mrs. K, the piano teacher, admirably played by Donna Gerdes. The sweet widow speaks of her passion for cookies and even passes some out on a tray to the audience in grandmotherly fashion. The audience watches enthralled as a strange undercurrent of fear subtly builds throughout her long monologue.

Megan DeLay portrays Mary Fields, one of Mrs. K’s students, with a perfect balance of pleasantry and concern. She brings a natural believability to the unfolding drama of unspeakable horror that informs the rest of the play.

Christopher Swan trembles and sputters with conflict throughout his dramatic portrayal of the mysterious and damaged piano prodigy, Michael, who Mrs. K struggles inwardly not to remember. He speaks of himself and the other piano students as “pure imagination walking around in skin.”

The nearly flawless opening night production has been greatly abetted by the addition of dramatic sound cues by sound designer Steve Lemke, and creative lighting by Michael Pasquino, lighting designer. Timothy Beltley’s costume design added credibility. Technical director Shane Streight and production stage manager Jon Merlyn, contributed a smoothness of acceleration to the overall ambiance.

There was no intermission, nor was one needed as the production held each audience member in the palm of its hand throughout. If you like well-constructed theater, you should definitely get out and see “The Piano Teacher,” produced by the Banyan Theatre Company playing at the Cooke Theater through August 5.

 

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