PLAYWRIGHTS, DIRECTORS AND ACTORS
AT THE ACTORS CHAPEL
PRODUCERS: MARIO MACALUSO & JOHN RONEY
CONSULTANT: JANET BREGER
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/RESIDENT PLAYWRIGHT: JO ANN TEDESCO
HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER: THOMAS ARKIN
REVIEW ON THE PIANO TEACHER, PLAY WRITTEN BY JULIA CHO.
Last night I saw a wonderful play enacted by three of the rarest of "items" in theater today. Actors who are Real Artists. There are many talented performers but talent is infinitely more common than artistry. True Artists are the rare commodity so the idea of an entire cast and director actually all being true artists is utterly overwhelming. Allow me to make the logical distinctions between the two. Talent is a gift that's attention-getting that can entertain and even engage but only artists can illuminate the human condition and uplift the viewer transporting him to those mystical regions deep within himself. Art resonates within us and we find ourselves somewhat haunted by it. Talent makes us happy for a while but art gives us abiding joy which we never forget. We find ourselves returning mentally to the performance and play repeatedly.
The three actors are made for great plays and great roles. There's nothing miniscule about their work, it's all giant economy sized both in terms of heart and technique.
Alternately comic and tragic BILGIN TURKER adds a large dollop of versatility to the mix as she plays several very different characters with great dexterity and velvety ease. A real find, she possesses such an embarrassment of theatrical riches she puts most actors to shame. She inhabits different psyches so completely that the discerning theatergoer knows beyond a doubt that Bilgin can and should play a broad range of roles. She's a wonder to watch and she leaves us wanting to see more of her insights into the human condition. She reveals the sub-conscious and the actual heartbeat in each character. No small feat, that.
Spoiler alert. That DAVID BECK is one devious actor! So low-key and soft-spoken that we're lulled into a false complacency and the fallacy that we know exactly who he is and where he's going. Nay not so! David Beck is full of subterranean Sturm und Drang. When David starts revealing the fault-lines in his character we're dragged through emotional swamps and over rough mountains never to return to safety again. He makes such emotional twists and turns that we're on a roller-coaster ride awaiting our safe return... An amazing surprise.
And now ROSINA FERNHOFF, the likes of which most audiences have never had the pleasure of experiencing. Why? Because there just plain are not many Rosina Fernhoffs in the world let alone in the theater. That such talent has never had wide exposure is the world's loss because Rosina is a grand dame of great acting. Having witnessed her in the same evening morph from Queen Elizabeth the First to a Brooklyn drug addicted mother of three other addicts, to say she has range is an understatement. She was born to play the piano teacher and she rips off her own skin exposing her beating heart pushing her life blood through her veins. A lifetime of right living has sharpened her artistic tools to such a degree that her dramatic choices are golden. She illuminates a character who lives in denial and loves a broken man in spite of it. To say her performance is moving is an understatement.
All of the aforementioned is also a large tribute to the director, ANTONIO MERENDA, whose work was so seamless and unobtrusive as to almost disappear. The complete antithesis to the work of most modern directors who are hellbent on putting their marks on the plays they mutilate. The director's job is to fulfill the playwright's vision not to lift a leg on every project with unnecessary self-indulgent directorial effluvia. I don't want to see two inches of cheap colored Cool-Whip frosting on my Sacher torte. What a welcome relief to find a director who presents the play matching well-suited actors to the piece. Antonio opened an artistic window and let fresh balmy air into the all-too often stuffy theater. Bravo Antonio!
And not least of all the playwright without whom even the greatest actors cannot use their talents. If there had not been a Tennessee Williams or Budd Shulberg we would never have seen Brando at his best. Great actors cannot act the phone book or every project they acted in would be a prize worthy performance. Actors need good roles with excellent lines to exercise their talent. JULIA CHO has given us such a play worthy of this director and actors. All I can say is Amen!
- JO ANN TEDESCO
Artistic Director, Resident Playwright, and Member of The Actors Studio West Playwrights/Directors Unit.
(Written on February 12th, 2016 in NYC, USA)