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Review: The Real Housewife of Düsseldorf County—Clara Schumann

The Real Housewife of Düsseldorf County—Clara Schumann

Israela Margalit’s “Trio,” currently playing at the Lounge 2 Theater in Hollywood, offers a window into the artistic triangle between Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms. Maragalit, a concert pianist, tied the play together with her own recorded compositions of Schumann, Brahms, and Beethoven.

Photo: From Left- Bjørn Johnson, Meghan Maureen Mc Donough. Jeremy Shranko

Meghan Maureen Mc Donough played the grim, subdued Clara Schumann, a once famous concert pianist repressed as a housewife cooking beans. Mc Donough’s Clara was a woman drained by years of belittlement by an insecure husband who would toss cruel jabs at her, including, “Those who can’t compose, play.”Her father, dynamically portrayed by Peter Colburn, bemoaned the wasting of Clara’s life. Bjørn Johnson, captured Robert Schumann’s madness with pathos, particularly when he called out in the asylum for his beloved Clara, his little “Clashen.”  Jeremy Shranko energetically portrayed the arc of Schumann’s protégé Brahms, from naïve tongue-tied ingénue to cunning manipulator.  Joseph Joachin, Brahms’ confidante (played by Brian Normoyle) radiated genuineness as a straight shooter, a voice of reason to his flattering friend.

The play worked best during the musical sequences.  For instance, when Brahms consoled an exhausted Clara, one heard his soothing Lullaby for Piano Solo. The music explained his solace and why Clara turned to him at that moment in time. Another memorable moment was a scene in which Clara and Brahms toyed with tempo, swept away rhythmically during Beethoven’s Appasionata. Margalit’s play was most meaningful when it centered on the music itself.

One minor weakness in the play is that structurally, a narrative element was needed to convey expository plot details: perhaps an introductory Greek-inspired chorus, a group of Düsseldorf townspeople, critics or audience-goers commenting on the timeline of the Schumann scandal. This element would have spared the actors from having to recount plot through dialogue (a structural challenge during which they did an excellent job) and instead focus on the immediate and the raw.

Margalit’s play begs the question: Can two eagles (artists) live together in domestic bliss? Or will one feel forever caged?

Posted by on March 14th, 2011

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