Theater Review: 33 Variations

Ludwig van Beethoven's 33 interpretations of a single waltz is the subject of a scholar's relentless research, despite the toll it takes on her relationship with her daughter.


( This is what people must've felt like when they began watching in living technicolor. We've always been impressed with Red Turnip Theater's ability to tell a story with zero props, but as they grow bolder with their pieces of choice, their technique also grows more refined. 


Jenny Jamora's full-length directorial debut is solid. We weren't quite sure what to expect before watching 33 Variations, but its execution is undoubtedly well-thought-out. 


The plot hardly sounds accessible: We're familiar with the musical genius Ludwig Van Beethoven (played by Teroy Guzman), but how interesting could a play about his "obsession" with Diabelli's Waltz be? Especially one that involves a musicologist diagnosed with ALS? It all seems too...elite. 


Teroy Guzman and Ejay Yatco, the two Beethoven entities in the play



Franco Chan and Ina Fabregas as Mike and Clara, supplying awkward cuteness


Luckily, Moises Kauffman's script keeps it light but not fluffy. You don't need to know much about Beethoven before watching the play, but you will want to listen to him after. The dialogue is a guide to the music, performed live for the audience by Ejay Yatco, and Kauffman cleverly describes what we feel when we hear the pieces (and highlights the brilliance behind the technique as well). 


The set design by Ed Lacson Jr. is stunningly effective. The characters flow into the "stage" easily, past and present blending smoothly. There's constant activity for the audience and, accompanied by lights and technical direction of John Batalla, there's an easy beat to follow. The characters interact with light boxes forming a perimeter around the audience, intimately including them in the story. 

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Rem Zamora and Paolo O'Hara



Shamaine Buencamino


Shamaine Buencamino is in top form as Dr. Katherine Brandt. We felt the quiet grief of being trapped in your own body as she slowly degenerates into, in Dr. Brandt's words, a carcass. Rem Zamora and Paolo O'Hara are expertly entertaining, merging tragedy and comedy as Anton Schindler and Anton Diabelli. The two Antons can only shower support for this eccentric but exceptional man. The desperation to be special just by being in close proximity with Beethoven is thick and as they shrink in his presence, you almost want to leap to the stage to give them a hug. 


It's not just Diabelli's top hat that makes 33 Variations elegant. There is thought in every detail, from the costumes to the blocking that superbly superimposes the similarities between Beethoven and Dr. Brandt to the "ding" of an imaginary elevator. Then again, you'd expect nothing less from Red Turnip.


33 Variations opens on July 24 and runs weekends until August 23 at Whitespace, Makati City. For tickets, log on to TicketWorld or check out Red Turnip’s Official Facebook Page.

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