Good friends, good booze and a melancholy Schubert song cycle.
Mon Dec 20 2010
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
When the rambunctious Three Pianos barreled its way onto the Incubator stage this past February, nothing could have been more effective in fighting off winter's chill. Warmhearted and expansive, player-performers Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy and Dave Malloy sang their own irreverent version of Franz Schubert's Winterreise, plied us with booze and reflected (at the top of their lungs) on music's power to heal heartache. Now that cold winds are blowing again, the three madmen return bearing their nonsense and mirth, not to mention many, many bottles of red wine. If the show has lost a bit of its rollick in the transition—New York Theater Workshop's plush seats automatically make you worry about spilling—its endearing erudition still makes an audience feel physically embraced.
The evening predicates itself on the Schubertiads, drink-soaked salons that the 19th-century composer threw for his bohemian Viennese circle. Director Rachel Chavkin lets the evening follow the rush-and-dawdle patterns of a real debauch; it feels like a long, woozy night, full of lulls and gleeful reaccelerations. It's a risky structure, and since none of the three men pretends to typical actor's polish, Three Pianos flirts with turning into a shaggy mess. But then Malloy croaks out another confession (Duffy: "Are you eating worse food than usual?" Malloy, woefully: "Yes.") and we find ourselves caught up in their palpable fondness for one another. Considering the collaborators' avant-garde bona fides, one would expect a little ironic distance. Instead there's only a comforting sense of proximity—to our hosts, to the neighbor pouring our drink and to Schubert's suddenly accessible and still ravishing music.
New York Theatre Workshop. Created and Performed by Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy and Dave Malloy. Dir. Rachel Chavkin. 2hrs 15mins. No intermission.