Is it only the idealists among us who search for the unattainable? Can the melancholic also pursue it?
The premise in “The Hunchback Variations, A Chamber Opera,” at 59E59 Theaters through July 1st, is a doomed collaboration between Ludwig von Beethoven (George Andrew Wolff) and Quasimodo (Larry Adams) to find a sound that will fulfill a stage direction in Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”
Quasimodo and Beethoven, both deaf and more than a touch ornery, are holding a series of panel discussions on the inevitable failure of their project. The attempt to create “the Impossible, Mysterious Sound” and “the Effects on Love and Friendship of Rehearsing the Creation of the Impossible and Mysterious Sound” are the subject for “The Hunchback Variations, A Chamber Opera.” The sound is “impossible” because it is one of nostalgia for something lost or missing or not existent. Beethoven and Quasimodo are trying to find something that eludes the senses.
Mickle Maher, an original member of Chicago’s Theater Oobleck which brought the musical play east, adapted the chamber opera from his eccentric little play “The Hunchback Variations.” His libretto is set to Mark Messing’s score for cello (played by Paul Ghica) and piano (Christopher Sargent.)
Adams and Wolff both have a wry demeanor and pleasant voices. They tell the tale well, revealing the details of the relationship between Quasimodo and Beethoven over the course of eleven “variations.”
Quasimodo asks, “Where do we put the happiness that has not been forged?… Where is the room for keeping all the nothings?” Beethoven responds “I would like to think that such a room exists.”