“The… Musician: An Étude”, displayed at the Distillery 1

Review by Michael PiscitellireviewerMichael P2

The Distillery District is one of the oldest and most well-known areas of Toronto. It seems fitting that a place of great history should give birth to new and exciting pieces of art. From the strange metal spider to the spiralling cone of steel, to Soulpepper™ just around the corner; art flourishes in the ‘hood!
              The… Musician: An Étude is “a study of the auditory and visual perception of the audience and the performer”, i.e. using light & sound as if it were a distinct character unto itself.

a visually dramatic moment in "THE MUSICIAN...an etude.

a visually dramatic moment in “THE MUSICIAN…an etude.

The story line – the life of a young man from his birth into the world completely blind. It showcases his struggles, thoughts and feelings on the world around him as he learns to see by other means- particularly with music.
As a play with such a heavy focus on vision and sound, one would think that would mean the stage would be overly lit and the action would be to the point and simple. To the contrary, darkness actually plays a bigger role in the overall design of the play than light does. Throughout the whole show the stage is almost entirely in darkness except for the odd shaft of light running straight across the stage every so often. These beams of light are almost like rivers of light in which the actors dive in and out to create a scene entirely with their hands or their feet. They convey all of their emotion through hand and leg movement. This is no easy task for any choreographer, let alone for a lighting designer.  Paul J. Stoesser captures the audience’s attention with his minimalist use of light and his intense focus on the actors’ individual body parts.
Live music is played throughout the entire play by pianist Art Babayants, faultlessly performing pieces by Mozart and Beethoven. There were several points when the music blended with the words of the actors to such a degree I was brought to an entirely different realm of thinking and had to shake myself back to the reality of the play in order to continue watching. It was almost as if I were in a dream. The… Musician: An Étude managed to find an incredible balance between the sound of the music and the sound of the spoken word.
There are some days that you want straight up entertainment, and then there are others that you feel the urge to see something amazing, artistic and thought provoking that leaves you wanting to see more by the end of the play. Beauty in the form of light and shadow, sound and silence, The… Musician: An Étude is both a piece of theatre and art that I very highly recommend seeing.

One comment

  1. Yes, I agree on all counts, but one. The one that is left not said, and on my observation is so by many commentaries: the whole piece in its ideas, in its directing decisions, in bringing in the appropriate professionals and leading them in collaborative works belongs to that same stunning pianist Art Babayants, and the fact that he is SO modest that never stresses this only makes his figure more attractive, and shouldn’t be removing from his role of a TRUE BRILLIANT DIRECTOR of this production. Art uses word “conceived”, when he describes this action, and apparently in his case it indeed WAS so, yet, in front of the audience after the Preview, as participants were introducing themselves he with a very typical for him modesty retorted: “Oh, well, I’m just a pianist who played this music”. Guys, let’s after all remember WHAT directing is all about!

    Vladimir Milman, playwrighter

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