Final Analysis. Pershing Square Signature Center (see Off Broadway). By Otho Eskin. Directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 20mins. No intermission.
Final Analysis: in brief
Otho Eskin's historical drama imagines Gustav and Alma Mahler, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sigmund Freud and Joseph Stalin sharing the darkling streets of Vienna at the turn of the 20th century. Ludovica Villar-Hauser directs the play, which was a critical success at last year's Midtown International Theatre Festival.
Final Analysis: theater review by Diane Snyder
Mahler, Freud and Stalin are among the boldfaced names populating Final Analysis, Otho Eskin’s historical blatherfest featuring the intelligentsia of pre–World War I Vienna. But the playwright’s chief concern is his setting—so much so that his dramatis personae seem like just part of the scenery. Eskin’s thesis is apparent in nearly every scene: that as rich as Vienna was artistically and intellectually, it was far from progressive about Jews, women and the lower classes.
To illustrate this coexistence of beauty and crudeness, he uses the fact that Gustav Mahler (Ezra Barnes) sought psychoanalysis from Sigmund Freud (Gannon McHale) concerning his troubled marriage to his much-younger wife, Alma (Elizabeth Jasicki). Mahler writes beautiful music, but can’t show Alma much kindness. Is his problem rooted in childhood? His abandonment of Judaism? Who knows? It’s only cursorily explored. Interspersed among the proceedings are Wittgenstein (Michael Satow), Stalin (Tony Naumovski), a very disturbed failed artist (Ryan Garbayo) and a waiter (Stephen Bradbury) who serves as the audience’s guide.
As the play hopscotches from one scene to the next, the protagonists philosophize, pontificate and agonize, but except for Stalin and Alma, rarely seem tortured. A scene between Naumovski’s bloodthirsty future dictator and Jasicki’s dispirited spouse is the highlight of Ludovica Villar-Hauser’s flat production, which does have appealing projections of old Vienna courtesy of designer Annie Berman. The mischievous humor Eskin occasionally employs (often at the expense of artists) is welcome, but his characters are mere expository tools. This Vienna doesn’t pulse with barely suppressed fury; it lulls itself gently to sleep.—Theater review by Diane Snyder
Follow Diane Snyder on Twitter: @DianeLSnyder
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