By Kenneth Jones
09 Feb 2009
David Binder produces the limited engagement (to May 24) at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, 230 W. 49th Street. The official opening is March 9.
Emmy and Oscar winner Fonda, last seen on Broadway in a 1963 production of Strange Interlude, heads a cast of eight, including Samantha Mathis ("Grey's Anatomy"), Colin Hanks ("Mad Men"), Zach Grenier as Beethoven, Don Amendolia as Anton Diabelli, Susan Kellermann, Erik Steele and pianist Diane Walsh.
The new music-drenched American play is from the mind of Kaufman, whose previous acclaimed work includes Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and The Laramie Project.
33 Variations concerns Katherine Brandt (Jane Fonda), trying to solve a centuries-old mystery about the world's greatest composer — Beethoven. Her obsession takes her from present-day New York to 19th-century Austria. "As the music that consumes Katherine comes to life on stage, she races against time to find common ground with her daughter [Mathis] and to embrace the legacy of her own life," according to production notes.
"I happened to be in Phoenix making a speech, and I was talking about it, and a woman came up to me and said, 'I saw it in La Jolla. It knocked me off my feet.' So I said, 'OK, I want to meet Moisés' and then Moisés and I had dinner and we really hit it off, and I said, 'I'm going to take this leap of faith.'"
Fonda said, "It's a total ensemble piece. I don't like the fact that people sort of thought it was a one-woman show. It's a real ensemble piece."
The creative team includes Derek McLane (sets), Janice Pytel (costumes), David C. Woolard (additional costumes), David Lander (lights), André Pluess (sound), Jeff Sugg (projection design), Charles LaPointe (hair/wig design) and Daniel Pelzig (choreography). The dramaturg is Mark Bly.
This marks Kaufman's debut as a Broadway playwright. He directed the acclaimed Broadway production of I Am My Own Wife, earning a 2004 Tony nomination for Best Direction. He's the artistic director of Tectonic Theater Project, the award-winning non-profit theatre company.
The Tectonic Theater Project's production is being produced on Broadway by David Binder, Ruth Hendel, Barbara Whitman, Hal Goldberg, Marianne Mills, Latitude Link, Arielle Tepper Madover, Eric Schnall and Jayne Baron Sherman.
Internationally known Oscar and Emmy Award winner Fonda ("Klute," "Coming Home," "The Dollmaker," "The China Syndrome," "On Golden Pond" and many more) made her Broadway debut in the 1960 play There Was a Little Girl, for which she earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress.
Mathis returns to Broadway following her performance of Hester Falk in Arthur Miller's The Man Who Had All the Luck opposite Chris O'Donnell. She plays Melinda on TV's "Grey's Anatomy." Hanks is making his Broadway debut following a recurring role on AMC's "Mad Men" (as Father John Gill). His movie credits include "W.," "The House Bunny" and "King Kong."
Grenier portrayed the role of Beethoven in 33 Variations at La Jolla Playhouse and was most recently on Broadway in A Man for All Seasons starring Frank Langella.
Tickets for 33 Variations are available by visiting Telecharge.com, calling (212) 239-6200 and at the box office of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.
33 Variations plays Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM with a Wednesday and Saturday matinee at 2 PM and Sunday matinee at 3 PM. (There will not be a performance on Feb. 11 at 2 PM, Feb. 15 or March 10.) The "Tuesdays at 7 PM" schedule begins on March 17.
33 Variations premiered on Aug. 30, 2007, at Arena Stage, Washington, DC. A production of 33 Variations was produced in 2008 by The La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, CA. The play was developed with assistance from The Sundance Institute Theatre Program, The Orchard Project Theatre Residency Program, The Davis Performing Arts Center and Theater and Performance Studies at Georgetown University, and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.