Old Wicked Songs
Indiana Repertory Theatre
Directed by James Still
Through Dec. 31
James Edmonson and Antonio Knoppers in the IRT production of 'Old Wicked Songs'
Great art can only come from someone who has great passion. This is the crux of the Indiana Repertory Theatre's current production, Old Wicked Songs. The story of a passionless piano prodigy and a music professor on the outs with academia is a touching show that sometimes shows us the disturbing realities of life. But as professor Mashkan says in the play, the combination of joy and sadness is at the core of beauty.
When 25-year-old Stephen (Antonie Knoppers) arrives in Vienna, he is furious at being told that before he can study piano with the professor of his choice, he must first study voice with professor Mashkan (James Edmondson). Stephen is a brat - arrogant and audacious. The professor seems to be a sweet, doddering old man, but there is a deep streak of sadness that he tries to hide. As the relationship between professor and student progresses, Stephen learns about passion - in life and music - and the professor learns how to open up and tell his story.
Knoppers begins the role stiffly - probably over-reacting to his character's own tension. As his character loosens up, so does Knoppers, until he fleshes out and fills in the role. Edmondson is a deeply satisfying Mashkan. Whether he is teaching, joking, drunk or belligerent, his performance remains constant - his character expresses a whole human who doesn't just progress from emotion to emotion, but lives within each one.
Direction by James Still keeps the action moving forward, and competently plays to each side of the Upperstage. Lighting by Michael London is rich, as is the set and scenery by Russell Metheny. Music consultant Steven Stolen and piano coach Catherine Bringerud make the commonality - music - between professor and student just as lovely as the rest of the play.
Old Wicked Songs continues through Dec. 31 at the IRT, 140 W. Washington St. Tickets are $49. Call 635-5252, www.indianarep.com