Variations on a theme
Goldberg Variations has layers, Chris Jones shines
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
One might walk away from Goldberg Variations at Andy’s Summer Playhouse with a feeling that one needs to see this three more times and read a biography or two, but then, it’s nice to have one’s mind challenged rather than spoonfed every now and then.
Because of the nature of the collaboration, in which 31 writers, choreographers, musicians, etc., created scenes that are variations on the themes of Rube Goldberg’s philosophies, commentaries and cartoons, and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which play in the background, foreground or not there at all (30 variations and an aria), there’s a lot to absorb during the production.
If you associate “Rube Goldberg” with a device that complexly does a simple task, you might enjoy many of the creative ways contributors brought that concept to the stage through the young actors. The younger audience members also seemed to get a good laugh out of a lot of those moments. But Goldberg created much more than the idea of a “Rube Goldberg machine.” If you are rusty on your Goldberg history, a lot of the scenes are clearer once you’ve watched Variation 16, by Jane Elkund, “The Abridged Biography,” in which the actors illustrate Rube Goldberg’s life as if they were in one of his famed panel cartoons. Some scenes play off social or political commentary, a nod to Goldberg’s satirical cartoons, and perhaps pointing out some history repeating itself.
As is the way of Andy’s Playhouse, children perform in the show, and it’s a premiere original work. The young company did an amazing job moving quickly from scene to scene, most of them playing several “roles,” with some characters returning. The “flash plays” range from amusing shorts that kids identify with to abstract and symbolic pieces that might leave you scratching your head. It’s definitely a cool show to catch if you are looking for something thought-provoking and new.
Just east of Wilton, the Milford Area Players are putting on a much more traditional kind of play. It has a beginning, middle and end, for one thing. In I Hate Hamlet, Chris Jones is commanding as the ghost of John Barrymore calling forth the “glory” of playing Hamlet. His character is endearing as a man who is reveling in being “larger than life,” and while he’s on stage for almost the entire show, every gesture and facial expression is in character. Barbara Webb as Lillian Troy, an agent who had a fling with Barrymore decades earlier, and Gail Angellis as real estate agent Felicia Dantine are delightful to watch. It’s kind of an “industry” play but the argument of art and talent versus being “packaged” to make money is one that’s more and more relevant.
I Hate Hamlet by the Milford Area Players runs at the Amato Center for the Performing Arts through July 23 (milfordareaplayers.org).
The Goldberg Variations runs through July 22 at Andy’s Summer Playhouse (andyssummerplahouse.org).